I Must Confess…
I scooted my chair beneath me to nestle into my assigned fifth grade desk, then pulled two folders from the metal shelving that hung below the desktop and propped them up around me. Just as I had been instructed.
I always tried to do what was instructed. For me, the pang of being in trouble was intolerable. Shame and humiliation bubbled inside until I swelled with the anguish of disappointment and the torment of doing something wrong. As a people-pleasing perfectionist, doing something wrong was unacceptable.
And also inevitable.
“Today we’re going to have a quiz over our multiplication tables,” my fifth grade math teacher explained while holding an intimidating stack of paper against her bosom. “I’m going to hand out your quizzes face-down. Don’t flip it over until I tell you to do so.”
Licking the tips of her fingers, she began distributing the tests to the kids across the classroom. They waited patiently as she made her way towards our cluster of desks.
Anxiety prickled my every nerve and my legs feverishly shook them off beneath my desk. Math was never my strong suit. Neither were pop quizzes. And there’s nothing worse for a perfectionist than to be evaluated on a skill with which you feel unprepared and uncertain.
For me, a mathematical pop quiz was the most uncomfortable and vulnerable exposure in the world – comparable to removing my heart and letting it beat openly on the wooden tabletop. And from the powerful pounding inside my chest, I thought that might actually become a reality.
As the teacher neared our group, I plucked up my pencil with sweaty palms. Soon, the bright back of the white paper stared me in the face. I wanted this over as soon as possible, and without thinking, I flipped it over.
“What do you think you’re doing, Kelsey?” my teacher boomed amid the silence, like the first firecracker on the Fourth of July.
“I’m sorry,” I stammered.
“Well, how about I write a big fat zero on your paper and tell you, ‘I’m sorry’?” she replied as sarcasm dripped from her angry snarl.
Join me at ColumbiaFAVs to learn how this fifth grade math quiz taught me about the sacrament of Reconciliation.