Just a few years ago, I dreaded coming to school.
Fear is a weird thing because when you talk aloud about your fears, they rarely make sense. My fear was simply talking to people. To most people, this seems like a strange thing to fear, but there was a reason behind my shyness. It didn’t come from anyone bullying me or being mean to me. It was a little voice inside my head that tried to convince me my identity came from my mistakes. But through my experiences in Grammar School, I not only know my identity comes from Jesus Christ, but I also believe it is true.
I first came to Caldwell in the first grade. I made some good friends and then one of them moved away. When second grade started, I made even more new friends, the ones I have today. Although I had friends, I was still shy at school.
Then life took a turn. My parents decided my brother and I should try our local public school. (My parents still regret this decision!) We all quickly realized there is no place quite like Caldwell Academy. I still remember Christmas when I was in third grade. My mom and dad wrapped up boxes of official Caldwell uniforms for my brother and me to unwrap. I was going back to Caldwell and I was so excited!
But when I returned I expected it all to be perfect. However, that inner voice would tell me that I wasn’t good enough, and most days I believed it. I was still terrified to talk and all my old friends had made new friends. Where was I going to fit in? Finally, I found the courage to tell the little doubting voice to be quiet. I reconnected with my old friends and even made some new ones.
While I was finally building great friendships, I still had two little problems: math and Latin! So, I started working harder, stayed after school for math tutoring, and I caught up. But that little voice still popped in to say I wasn’t smart enough and I remained shy. When fourth grade started, I was scared and grumpy all the time. I was upset with myself because I watched everyone around me have fun and I just couldn’t. All I felt was insecurity and defeat.
My mom and dad helped me through this time and I began feeling less overwhelmed. Things were looking up and then, 'Boom!' A worldwide pandemic forced everyone to stay home and everything to close. As my classmates and I learned how to navigate online learning and I had to be taught by my mom, (she should really stick to first grade) I began to realize we aren’t meant or created to be alone. I thought since I was shy and overwhelmed at school, I’d be okay at home, but I wasn’t. I missed my friends and my teacher.
After the last Zoom meeting, I told my mom each Zoom class reminded me of all I was missing. I was so focused on the bad and listening to the little voice that spoke negative things. I wanted a redo. I wanted to take time to see the good. I realized how much I needed Caldwell. I needed the teachers, my friends, and I even needed even math and Latin.
And now, I have completed the fifth grade. Somehow throughout the year, I began having more fun. I am often able to shut off the voice that wants me to dwell on mistakes and shortcomings.
Grammar School has changed me. You probably don’t know this, but thanks to you, my classmates, teachers, and the administration, I look forward to each day. Instead of wanting to go home, I want to stay. Thanks to Caldwell and my parents, not only do I know my identity rests in Christ, but I am also learning to believe it! I am so glad to be at Caldwell, and I’m excited about the Dialectic School. I will never forget my time in Grammar School, and I am so blessed to be a part of a place that is so hard to say goodbye to, even if it’s just for summer break!
Isabelle Martin '28 is a rising sixth-grade student at Caldwell. She delivered these remarks at Caldwell's 2021 Fifth-Grade Promotion Ceremony.