We are basically halfway through The Scintilla Project. What that means: they’re be e-mailing me prompts, and I’ll be writing on them. For another week or so. And if I fall behind, maybe this whole experiment will drag out for more than two weeks.
Day 9: What is the longest thing you know by heart (poem, speech, prayer, commercial jingle)? Why did you learn it?
It probably comes as no surprise to most of you that I am abysmal at math.
I can manage addition and subtraction, time-telling (not actually math, I know) and splits-wrangling when I run. But just try to chum the waters with a solvable equation, the multiplying of fractions or trigonometry and I am out faster than a light during a power surge.
I don’t know that I was ever born to be the numbers genius that my husband is, but nevertheless, I will take some responsibility for this factor-based shortcoming of mine.
And yet, it goes without saying that I had more than my fair share of bad math teachers.
In 7th grade, there was Mr. Walz, who refused to wear deodorant. Ever.
In 8th grade, there was Mrs. Fisher who took the issues in her personal life out on our class by being outright vicious.
In 9th grade, there was Mr. Thorson, who also taught calculus and had no interest in dealing with freshmen (I don’t blame him). As an added bonus, he was retiring at the end of the semester and had completely checked out. I couldn’t even tell you what Math 1 was supposed to be about.
And finally, in 10th grade there was Mr. Wilson. He had brown hair. Anyway, he spent a lot of time teaching at us in his outside voice. He also spent a lot of time bringing his Teaching Bro in from the classroom next door, because Teaching Bro had a free period during our block. Teaching Bro also liked using his outside voice at us and like, three years later would end up getting arrested for essentially Chris Brown-ing his girlfriend.
Who would like to guess at why I never learned any math.
Because when you lay it all out like that, it becomes very clear very quickly.
Which brings us to Math 3, in 11th grade at Wayzata High School.
Where I was in a classroom that was so full that some of us were relegated to chairs clumped with desk groups, rather than proper desks.
Classroom-size issues aside, I had my first Proper Math Teacher since 1999, ending the black hole-sized gap in my math education.
The difference between an adult who is barely-functioning and an enthusiastic, dialed-in one is the difference between night and day.
For all that Mr. Lombardi was moderately good at teaching math, he was spectacularly good at teaching life.
He was one of Those Teachers.
We had about half of the varsity girls’ soccer team in my class and it was state tournament time.
In high school, this is the way the passage of time is marked.
So, the day before the tournament, he reached behind a bookshelf and pulled out a framed poster. He read it aloud, and told us that if we took nothing else from our time in his class, that we needed to remember this:
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
Nearly 10 years later I still do.