Monday, March 31, 2008

Freshman Algebra

Got an itch to tell a story on myself from my freshman year of high school.

We moved when I turned 14, so I started high school as a new kid. I weighed 103 lbs and still did not like combing my hair. That summer I would put on 40 lbs and start taking martial arts, and my outlook on life would change, but at the time keeping a low profile was an important survival skill for me.

First period at 8am was Algebra. Now let me just say that there are people out there better at mathematics than me, somewhere. None of them were in that algebra class of course. The teacher was nice plump white haired old maid. I had one friend in that class, a stoner kid who always wore a jacket, probably to hide the fact that he only owned two or three t-shirts. He and I were equally unpopular. His prime obsessions were girls, sex and (i think)pot. He and I were hardly birds of a feather, but I didn't feel I could afford to be picky about my friends. He never wanted to cheat off me... it may have been that nobody besides the teacher knew that I was smart. Like I said, a low profile was what I was trying for.

But if my mouth was shut, my ears where open and I was falling for algebra. Some of the ancient Greeks built religions around mathematics. There have been mathematicians who fought duels with other mathematicians because each had insulted the other's math skills. Hilarious I know, but at age 14 I was starting to understand that sort of fanatical ... reverence for math. There is a type a beauty in math and I was digging my first hour algebra class.

But I kept a low profile.

One day we had a substitute teacher. She was another old white haired woman, but she had no math skills whatsoever. She got up in front of the class and started talking and everything she taught was wrong, start to finish, and I was the only one on the class who knew the difference. I was appalled. She seriously had no idea what she was doing. She was math illiterate. But the thing that got to me was she was soo cocky. Not only did she know nothing, she didn't even know that she didn't know.

Something snapped in me and I started calling her out. Every line of equation she butchered on he overheard projector, I shoved my fist in the air and argued with her. She, however, would not admit her mistakes and that reaaaaally pissed me off. The only thing that I remember saying specifically to her was : "Isn't this like burning your house down to boil an egg?"

The rest of the class did not know what to do. First off, nobody had ever heard me say so much. Second, every single thing I said sounded like the worst kind of smarting off. And although the teacher couldn't admit that she was wrong, (cause she really didn't understand anything I was telling her anyway), I was still making her lose her cool in a big way. I imagine she was glad when first hour was over.

Next day we had our regular teacher back, and I went back to my low profile.

"How did it go yesterday?" I remember her asking the class.

"John argued with the teacher the whole hour!" shouted several girls.

"Oh Really?" Our regular teacher raised her eyebrows in surprise and gave me a quizzical look. I smiled a bit, shrugged and looked down at my text book.