In a land far, far away, in a time long, long, ago, I took high school geometry. Okay, so it was in Texas and it was 1984, but I digress.
Let’s set the stage. As a student, it was hard to miss the Garfield (remember, it was 1984) poster on the teacher’s podium which stated, “I’m not hard of hearing. I’m ignoring you.” Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside doesn’t it? Mrs. R was not a warm and fuzzy kind of gal. And I could have used some warm fuzzies. Geometry was not my thing. I was a good student, and I wasn’t used to having to work hard to understand academic material. I had done fine in Algebra I the year before, but I was not remotely getting Geometry. Mrs. R’s helpful explanations, such as “It’s that way because of the invisible line that bisects the plane,” (I swear this is true), were not proving very helpful. Now, I will admit that I might have been a tad distracted by the presence in the class both of my crush of the year and the resident mysterious bad boy who was repeating the class as a senior in a last-ditch effort to graduate, but this teaching style was NOT matching up with my learning style. Unfortunately, no one cared much about that in 1984, and parents, particularly my parents, had certainly not yet learned to write all about their child’s unique learning style when asking principals for special consideration in class placement.
Fast forward to the end of semester one. Texas had just changed the passing score from 60 to 70 thanks to Ross Perot and House Bill 72
. Mrs. R gave a looong speech about how out of the pure goodness of her heart, she would be raising the grades of students who had a 69 to 70 so they could pass the semester. And there I was, staring at my grade of 89. So channelling Tracy Flick
about 15 years early, I shot up my hand and asked, “So, does that mean you’re going to raise 79s to 80s and 89s to 90s?” And the answer? “HA, HA, HA, HA….NO!” And it’s there until this day on my high school transcript. Geometry 1: 89. Accompanied by Geometry 2: 89. Yes, really.
Why am I telling you this? Or, better yet, why am I still bitter so many years later? I’ll leave the second question for future psychotherapy, but as to the first question, well, Dancer Girl is now taking geometry. Since she is in 8th grade as compared to my sophomore year geometry experience, the reader can assume that my quest to marry well in the math department so as to pass on better genes to my children has succeeded. Thank you Adventure Guy, engineer. Tonight, for the first time since leaving Mrs. R’s class (and going on to do quite well in Algebra II and Pre-Calculus and well as 6 hours of college math thank you very much) I was faced with the prospect of geometry homework. Dancer Girl had some questions and said, “I’ll wait until Dad gets home and get him to help me.” In an effort to dispel the notion that Mom can’t do math and therefore convey somehow that girls in general aren’t as good at math as boys, I said, “Well, I can take a look.” She demurred until I added, “And, your dad won’t be home until late, so you’re kind of stuck with me.”
And then I had NO IDEA how to solve her problems. It makes you feel good, I’m telling ya! I was hoping for a few more years before I became obsolete in the math homework department. Fortunately, Adventure Guy got home earlier than expected and saved the day.
But, this story does have a happy ending in another way as well. Remember, like the infamous Mrs. R, I too became a high school teacher. While math was NOT my field (I taught English and history), numerous students benefited from her teaching philosophy. Because in Mrs. M’s class, a student never, not ever, earned an 89, which in my book is even worse than the proverbial Peppermint Patty D-.
Nope it was either an 88 or a 90, but 89 did not exist in my classroom world.
Teachers often work for years without knowing how much impact they have on their students in the long run. My guess is Mrs. R has absolutely no idea of how much her actions way back in 1984 affected future generations of students. And I’m sure they’d thank her for it, even if I can’t quite bring myself to do the same.
P. S. That hot guy? The senior trying to get out of geometry? She passed him. I’m convinced it was only so that she never had to see him again (particularly after that little incident with the scantron for the exam from first semester which he was auditing that spelled out “Merry Christmas Mrs. R). Oh, the injustice of it all. But I’m getting over it, really, I am.