Who’s Your Miss Nelson?

I looked into her harsh eyes hardly believing a grown-up could be so mean.  She towered over me like a formidable giant.  Her bony hand pushed against my shoulder in disgust.  I had done the unthinkable.  I was rug-less. It was my first day of kindergarten and the teacher was already unhappy with me.  My parents apparently didn’t get the message.  Provide a little rug to define the place where all good five-year olds should plant themselves.  Who knew?

How could my loving parents have left me here…with her…without a rug?  I was crushed. It’s a moment in time that still haunts me.  Brings back those feelings of vulnerability.  Fear and intimidation.

Her witchy voice commanded me to find someone to share. Without offering any help, she made me fend for myself. Overcome my timidity.  Push out of my comfort zone. I wanted Mommy and Daddy to take care of me the way they always did.

On the verge of tears, I remember looking around.  Nobody wanted to make eye contact with the bad little girl who made their teacher mad.  Who would want to be my friend?  But a little blonde girl with glasses was willing to risk it all. Her name was Elaine.  She looked up from her beautifully colored carpet square (that her parents had provided) and moved over to make room for me. My rescuer had come. We both fit on the rug.  She and I together. She took my hand and smiled.  I would never forget her gesture of love. What I didn’t realize then was that Elaine and I would go all the way through high school graduation together.

I don’t remember much else about kindergarten, except the warm, on-the-verge-of-souring, white milk that was passed out for mid-morning snack.  I know those little cartons are the reason white milk still gags me to this day.

While I’m sure there were some good times in that foreboding room, the fact remains that this hard-hearted woman ruled over my life away from home.  She brought out fears in me I never experienced before. She reminds me of the character in one of my son’s favorite books when he was little.  Miss Nelson was a teacher who dressed up like a witch to scare her students into compliance.  I’m sure my kindergarten teacher  was the character study for the Miss Nelson series.

Only difference was that my “Miss Nelson” was more than a fictional character.  She was a real life lady I dreaded facing each morning.  She was the antithesis of the love and kindness I experienced at home.  An authority figure who lacked compassion. An ugly lady who thought kindergarteners should be brave little soldiers. It’s no wonder the thought of her still makes me shudder.

None of us parents or grandparents want our little darlings to face the meanies of life when they’re young. (Gosh, I don’t want that for my adult children either).  Life is sometimes filled with hard-nosed people.  Unkind, uncaring and unlikeable. In a perfect world…everyone would love me and my kids, and be nice.

I believe God was with me during those difficult days in Room 101. He allowed me to see the other side of humanity at a young age.   He was teaching me. And He was right beside me. He even sent a human savior in the midst of my chaos. I believe my life intersected with Elaine that day for a purpose. Why does God allow difficult people and circumstances to touch us?  In my opinion, He wants to assure us that whether in blessings or in trials, He is there.

I have UPHELD you since you were conceived

and CARRIED you since your birth.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He.

I am He who has MADE you

and I will CARRY you,

and I will SUSTAIN you 

and I will RESCUE you.

Isaiah 46:3-4

Whether toddlers or kindergartners; middle-schoolers or college-bound; newly-weds or first-time parents, our children have the God of the Universe on their side. We parents and grandparents can take comfort that their Maker is always with them, when we can’t be.  To uphold, carry, sustain and rescue. He always has been and always will be. From conception to old age, the Great I AM is by their side. Even as they face their own Miss Nelsons.





3 thoughts on “Who’s Your Miss Nelson?

  1. Lovely, Karen. Kathleen and I were talking about teacher’s influence (at dinner last week!) she is a therapist in a residential treatment center for teenagers and young adultswho have experienced abuse and neglect. Her area of expertise is trauma; she will be preenting in N. Y. at a professional gahtering in April. We know that whatever training teachers receive is not enough to deal with “difficult” children. How does one teach compassion? Even with a compliant child,which I am sure you were, your story beautifully illustrates how power misused can wound. OI have come to believe our wounds are sacred territory; God in Christ is drawn to suffering.

    1. Thanks Mel. Your Kathleen is in an important place of influence. God bless her & her work. You are so right that God is with us in suffering. He works all of it for good. That’s our hope!

  2. Ohh…did this hit a note with me, Karen. My Miss Nelson was a stern uncompassionate Miss McKinsey in my 5th grade year. it was a new school for me and I was so lost and afraid of her, she was mean—she let me sit and do nothing the whole school year—she ignored me. I remember her words to me were like dog bites and they paralyzed me. It was the longest year of my life! And my kids wonder why I spent so much time volunteering in their elementary classrooms! Do mean unhappy teachers realize how their demeanor can effect children’s lives.

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