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Welcome To Middle School, Where We Crush Your Desire To Learn

, , , , , , | Learning | December 28, 2021

I was really good at math as a kid. We’re talking traded my stupid third-grade crosswords and word searches for my sister’s sixth-grade math homework kind of good… at least until Mom found out and made me stop. I wasn’t in trouble; she just explained that I was doing Sis a disservice by denying her the chance to understand math concepts she would need and be tested on. Busy work exchanges were still cool, though.

Then, I took Algebra 1 from a retired sailor who couldn’t teach to save his soul. And I had knee surgery on September 15th, the day the class learned what y=mx+b meant. When I returned from surgery the following week, I was still high as a kite on pain meds until some time in October. And the teacher flat-out refused to help me catch up. When I asked him to explain that formula, he’d just parrot, “It’s the slope-intercept form of a line!” without ever telling me what that meant.

At one point the following spring, during a conference with my parents, he had the gall to say that I was “too stupid to learn math” and “the stupidest kid in the whole school.”

Dad nearly rage-flipped the table, but Mom put her hand on his knee and then punctured the teacher’s ego.

Mom: “Every student must have aced the math section of their standardized tests, then! I demand to see proof of that.”

He was caught off-guard, with a dazed “Huh?” expression. Then, Mom pulled my test results (just back that week) out of her folio and practically purred:

Mom: “[My Name] only missed one question, so if they’re the stupidest kid in the school, then everyone else must have aced the test, right? Oh, they didn’t? Well, then, perhaps the problem is not a stupid pupil. Hmm…”

We left the teacher gaping like a fish and the school counselor laughing at him. 

That night, my dad went through my entire algebra textbook with me, right from chapter one. He started to gloss over that same equation with the same recursive answer the teacher gave until I stopped him.

Me: “What. Is. Y? What is X? What is M? And what the heck is B?”

Dad: “You don’t know that?”

Me: “NO!”

Dad: “Oh! Well, that explains everything!”

And he proceeded to actually break it down for me. It took less than two minutes, including drawing multiple graphs to illustrate how the formula works. Two freaking minutes would have saved me an entire school year of frustration.

After that, we zoomed through the entire text in about 4 hours. The next day, I took my final. I aced it.

But my love for math was gone. The teacher in question “retired” at the end of that year.

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