What the 4th-Grade Taught Me About Shame

A huge window overlooked the schoolyard from my 4th-grade classroom - most of us spent the better part of that year staring longingly toward it and dreaming of recess. I had a pretty defining moment in that room. The layout of the classroom changed pretty regularly, and on this particular day our desks were arranged into little groups of five, a perfect square with two pairs of kids facing each other, and a fifth desk stuck awkwardly to the side. The lesson was on math, and although I’m no mathematician, I’ve always been fond of the subject.

Our teacher scrawled out a question on the blackboard, I can’t remember exactly what it was. Next, he wrote down two answers. He read the question aloud and after waiting a moment, he pointed to the number on the left “Stand up if you believe that this is the correct answer,” he pointed to the answer on the right “stay in your chair if this is the correct answer.” I practically flew out of my chair. I stood with my hands on my desk, looking at the number on the left feeling absolutely, 100% percent certain that I had chosen correctly. My eyes shifted to Mr. Post, standing with chalk in his hand at the front of the class, peering at me over the tip of his thin-framed glasses. “Are you certain?” It was then that I took a moment to look around the classroom.


Not a single one of my classmates was standing. NOT ONE.


Kids snickered as I stood there in the center of the room all alone, all eyes on me, my face burning with embarrassment. He read the questions aloud again. Still, no one stood. My palms were sweating, my face as hot as the July sun. Mr. Post folded his thin, lanky arms in front of his chest and looked me dead in the eye “Morgan” he pointed to the answer on the left with his stub of chalk, “are you certain that this is the correct answer?” Every head in the classroom shot toward me and I swiftly plopped back down into my chair, my face crimson red. Mr. Post shot me a knowing glance and turned his back to the class, lifting his hand to erase the number on the right. He turned back toward us, cleared his throat, and sardonically stated “had Morgan remained standing, she would have been correct.” After a long pause he continued speaking but I'm not sure what was said, I tuned out the rest of that lesson and dwelled on what had just occurred. I don’t know if my fourth grade self had ever been so pissed off in my entire existence. Not at my teacher or at my classmates, but at myself. I KNEW what the correct answer was and yet I allowed shame and embarrassment to change my mind. I had given up on what I knew to be true because of the opinions of others.

I was scared to be different and stand up for what I believed, and I’ve been trying my hardest since that day to NEVER let that happen again.

This day plays in my mind often, pushing me to believe in myself and trust my intuition in times when it feels so much easier to conform. Like most things, it isn’t always easy. It's a lesson I've had to re-learn once or twice, but this memory encourages me to see myself through and to remain unwavering in those moments when what feels right for me doesn't look like what everyone else is doing. Whether it's in my art, my business, or any other aspects of my life.

Let this be a reminder to stand up for what you believe in. Stand tall and own your truth, in everything that you do. Have confidence in your intelligence and intuition and never, ever second guess yourself based on the opinions of the masses, because you, my friend, are not meant to blend in.