Sunday, August 9, 2015

Reading, Writing and What!

I never knew about the left side or the right side of the brain when growing up and despising arithmetic. I just knew I could not stand columns of numbers with plus or minus signs or some marked with an X or others with another sign. I never had enough fingers to use when counting. There was no wiggle room when getting the right answer. It had to be exact. Two and two always equaled four. This thing called exactness was why I preferred English-preferably writing. There's lots more freedom. You aren't tied to a formula. Your answers-your essays-whatever it is you write-is all yours. No one else will have the exact same story or essay as yours. I liked that. Life is not exact. Why should what you do be exact?

My distain for arithmetic-for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing-took a nasty turn once I had to take Algebra. My disdain for exactness had met its match. I was horrified by formulas and rules that made no sense and questions I did not understand. My mother asked my uncle-a high school Biology teacher-to help me but he couldn't. Oh he tried but most times I'd run in my room crying and screaming to the world how I hated everything-in particular, "Dumb Algebra."
I failed Algebra the first time I took it. I failed it again the next year-and that landed me in summer school. I was miserable. I was stuck in school just because of that exactness. I'd made up my mind I was only going to fail again-until the patience of a little old man who was the instructor turned my life around.

At first I thought he was useless. He'd stand there-so short he could hardly write on the chalkboard. His voice was low pitched so I couldn't hear him but I didn't care-until the day he returned our first tests individually to each of us. When he put mine down on my desk he asked me in his low pitched voice to stay after everyone left. I thought this was it. Numbers and formulas were finally going to do me in. Boy was I surprised. In the silence of that room when it was just the two of us, the little old instructor told me I reminded him of himself when he was my age. He told me he'd built up a wall around himself-convinced he'd never be able to do math because math demanded the right answer.

"There was no wiggle room," he told me.

That got my attention as he told me Algebra was easy. All I had to do was learn the basic formulas and he was willing to spend time with me while I got them. And he did! And I passed! I even went on to take Geometry and I passed it a well but that was the end of my math career. I will forever be thankful to that instructor who bothered to spend time with me and teach me the basics. He certainly was a fine example of what teaching is all about.

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