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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: First Day of School (06/28/04)

TITLE: Overcoming the Classroom Terrors
By Mary Elder-Criss


Although ancient now, at least in my kids’ opinions, and barely able to remember what I am shopping for at the grocery store without a list, I can still recall, with extreme clarity, the very first time I stepped foot into my kindergarten classroom.

I remember it so well, because it was my first experience in dealing with overwhelming fear. Fear of the surroundings, which to my six-year-old eyes were vast and unfriendly, fear of the teacher, although she smiled prettily enough, fear of the other children, and last, but most importantly, fear of separation from my mother. I was literally petrified.

When the time approached for the mothers to take their leave, an enormous communal caterwauling began to issue forth. It seemed we all shared the same “Classroom Terrors.” Who would have thought such small sets of lungs could have produced such a concerto of noise? The “Hounds of Hades” would have been hard pressed to compete.

Clutching my mother’s hand with almost superhuman strength, a forlorn cry issuing from my throat, I felt certain the school would swallow me up, and I would never view her beloved face again. Laments filled my soul.

“Why, oh why had I been such a disobedient child in the past?”

“Why hadn’t I treasured the time I had with my mother, and worked hard at being a cheerful child, instead of pouty and whiny?” Convinced this was my just punishment for failing her, I promised to repent if she would only take me home and not desert me in this alien place.

Peeling me off her leg, she tried to speak sense to me.

“Mary, I will see you in three hours. You have to stay here for now, but I’ll have milk and cookies waiting for you when you get home, and you can tell me all about your day. You’ll have a good time, honey. Mrs. Brooks will let you paint and color, and she’ll read you a story. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

My response to her reasoning was to produce another longer, more desperate wail, and cling ferociously to her skirt. “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! It doesn’t sound like fun. I want to go home. NOOOOOWWWWWWW!”

My fear only abated when the teacher, in a moment of what I am now sure was divine inspiration, hit upon the one thing that held a greater fascination for me than my fear of abandonment. Squatting down next to where I was using my mother’s skirt as a handkerchief, she asked me a simple question.

“Mary, do you like books?”

“Books? Did she say books?” My interest was peaked, my cries diminished. Through tear laden-lashes, I dared a peek in the direction she was pointing.

Sure enough, there it was. A three shelved wonder, crammed full of wondrous, glorious books. I almost drooled.

“If you stay, Mary, you can pick any two books you want and take them home with you today.”

“Two books? All for myself? To take home?” I was awestruck at the possibility. “Perhaps there are books about horses over there. Perhaps ones with lots of pictures.”

I now faced the biggest personal quandary of my short life. Cling to my mother’s skirt and security, or let go and explore the unknown, with its possible rewards?

Three hours later, my mother returned, to be met by a smiling child, two magnificent picture books about horses tucked snugly under her arm.

Thirty-five years later, I still find myself occasionally fearful when presented with the unknown. When faced with a choice of clinging to what is familiar, or stepping out into foreign territory, I am often unsure of which direction to take. Recently, the Lord has been speaking to me about publishing a collection of my writings, as a message of encouragement to others.

My initial reaction to this whole idea was to “bury my face in my mother’s skirt.” More often than not, I want to cling to the familiar, because the unknown still has the potential to bring out the “little girl fear” in my heart. Yet, my Bible states that the Lord has not given me a spirit of fear, but one of power and love and a sound mind.

Although part of me will always be a bit timid about accepting heavy responsibilities, the Holy Spirit’s fullness will provide enabling power to exercise the ministry that God has entrusted to me. I simply have to trust in Him when facing the “Classroom terrors,” and claim my reward.

Copyright 2004

Member Comments
Member Date
L.M. Lee07/05/04
I was right there, pealing you off my leg!

I wish I had a teacher with books my first day.
darlene hight07/05/04
Excellant! I love the imagery and I love that teacher!
Joanne Malley07/07/04
A well-written story which brought back my own memories of fear and insecurity at school.

I think we all still have a small, insecure child within us!
Linda Miller07/07/04
Mary, this is a wonderful entry. Kept my interest throughout and enjoyed reading it.
Melanie Kerr 07/08/04
"Peeling me off her leg" is a wonderful word picture. I loved what you had written. It was very clear and although I don't think it was my experience I can imagine it strikes a chord with many people. I like the relevance of it for now. I hope you do publish the book!