Thursday, July 15, 2010

Math and Me

In fourth grade I still attended the small elementary school in my town. This would be the last year there. The fourth grade classroom was the last one at the end of the hallway on the left. Mrs. C (I decided not to publish her whole name due to the story I share below) was my teacher. She was very tall with dark curly hair.

This was the year I realized I didn't like school as much I had thought.

I had been a good student up to this point. I consistently received A's and B's on my report card and I enjoyed school. However, math was never my strong point. For some reason I really struggled with math. 

Mrs. C liked to do math drill. She would go up and down the neat rows of desks and ask us each a problem. Perhaps it was my shyness, but more likely it was my sad math skills, I struggled mightily with this. 

Then it was time for our report cards. Our first of the year. I opened it to look and there was my first C (I think it was even a C-). I was devastated. Completely and utterly devastated by that letter.

The bus ride home seemed to last forever. As soon as I walked in the front door I gave my report card to my Mom and promptly went to my room convinced I was a failure. I'm sure there were even tears involved. 

Then my mother came in to talk to me. Her question to me was this, "Did you do your best?" I know I had. I had truly done my best but I felt like my best wasn't good enough. She hugged me and told me that as long as I always did my best, then it didn't matter what my letter grades reflected.

To this day math is still a struggle for me at times, but I have always remembered my mother's advice. Do your best. That's all you can do. The rest will work itself out.


After I hit "publish" on this I remembered another significant moment in fourth grade. This was the year my feet and ankles began to bother me (more on that next week). I was seeing various doctors trying to figure out what was causing my pain. One thought I needed to ice my foot after playing. This meant that every day after recesses I went down the hall to the storage room and got some ice out of the fridge and sat in the classroom icing my foot during class time. 

One day Mrs. C stopped me on the way back in. Did I mention how tall she was? She was very intimidating and not one of my favorite teachers. I had been having a fight with a friend of mine who was in third grade. We had grown up together and for some reason we were having a tiff. I don't remember what it was even about. However, I had written her a note in code to basically tell her off as only a preteen girl can do. 

She had been having trouble with the code so she asked her teacher (one of my favorite teachers by the way so it made it all the worse) to help her decode it. Since I was only nine at the time, it wasn't all that hard for an adult to break the code.

Mrs. C had stopped me to discuss this incident. It was my first real time of being in trouble with the teacher. I don't remember what was said but I was suppose to apologize to my friend and never do it again or something along that line. I remember feeling very upset and humiliated. 


The reason for me not sharing Mrs. C's real name is an incident that occurred two years later when my younger sister was in her classroom. I feel sorry for my sister. She had to follow in my footsteps and we are vastly different in so many ways. She is the baby of the family and a bit, shall we say, mouthy. I love her dearly but we are polar opposites and it was blatantly obvious in school.

I don't remember what happened to set off the issue, but my sister came home from school that day with a huge goose egg on her forehead and large, red, angry looking scratches on her neck. Apparently my nine year old sister had mouthed off enough to Mrs. C that she grabbed her by the neck and hit her head against the cement wall outside the classroom. 

Today she would have been fired - at least I hope so. However, during the meeting that followed she was only reprimanded and was allowed to continue to teach. I still remember the principal walking by me into the meeting (I was at the school with my mom but waited outside with friends) and having her look at me and say "Well, she probably deserved it." 

And my mother made sure that this wouldn't happen again when my sister's daughter was in Mrs. C classroom. Thankfully it didn't. 


  1. That is so shocking and sad! I mean as a parent I would've been so outraged if even a bully had done that to my child, and then to have it be a teacher who I am supposed to be able to trust to care and nuture my child as she teaches them?! I would've changed schools!
    I know way back when they used to hit you on the hands/knuckles for punishment, but that was so long ago, things have come so far in the last 50 years, I am so sad to think this would've happened this recently!
    Well thanks for sharing your story! I too was awful at math, but mine didn't show up in my grades until high school. In fact my senior year I dropped my math class (didn't need that credit anymore) because I was doing poorly when the teacher wouldn't really help or show us anything! I still have nightmares about being in that class and panicking for not havingthe work done or correct!

  2. Seriously!? That is so crazy. And you're right - it would never happen like that today. I actually have a story for next week (fifth grade) about the teacher getting so mad and what he did. I'll never ever forget it (just like you'll probably never forget Mrs C's actions either).

  3. I am horrible at math, but I found out i had a learning and have a learning disability.
    I can't believe teachers hurt kids back in the day.. I only heard about nuns and rulers.. LOL
    My husband has a son from a previous marriage and his report cards A's are doing your best.. and I disagree.. I think he pushes to hard... It was good you were not made to feel horrible about your C when you already felt bad.

  4. Can't believe that teacher didn't get fired, even back then. That was awful.

  5. Lisa, I was so horrified by that event when it happened, and I have never forgotten it. It makes me sick. My "black mark" in school occurred with Mrs. C. as well -- not nearly what your family went through, but traumatic just the same. Very sad.


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