My mom tried on many occasions to teach me things along the way. She taught me how to be polite, how to sit like a lady, how to respect my elders and listen to instruction. She also, God love her, tried to teach me Algebra.
I tried and tried to learn Algebra, but it just didn’t make any sense to me why they were trying to put letters in number equations. Seriously, who thought of that? I somehow managed to get put in honors Algebra in high school and my teacher thoroughly enjoyed tormenting me. He thought it was great fun to give long homework assignments, then give quizzes on a completely different chapter. He said it was his way of making sure the students understood the entire concept and gave us the added incentive of knowing we should read ahead. In a word, Algebra was hell on me.
My mom knew a principal at an elementary school and in desperation called him and obtained the teachers version of the algebra book we were actually using in class. This should have been a huge relief since we now had a book with the answers in it. I would work and work at the homework and check the book and….still be wrong. Frustrating! I would start over and work and work until I got it right, only to go to school tired from being up too late doing homework and have a quiz on a completely different chapter. I begged my teacher and counselor to let me transfer out of the class. My teacher laughed at me and told me I was more than smart enough to figure it out and if not, then I could take it again the next year. I told my mom “Algebra is STUPID!! I will never use it and don’t want to learn it! It’s a waste of my time!”
I failed that Freshman year of Algebra with flying colors. My first class I had ever failed. I had to attend summer school and take two unrelated classes to make up the credits. Algebra I had to repeat the next year. I vowed I would skip class every day if I had the same teacher.
I had a coach for my Algebra teacher the next year. He gave analogies for the equations and made everything seem so simple! What was a horrible struggle the previous year was a breeze! I got all A’s and B’s in his class and understood every equation and concept. I did so well that my mom accused me of just not liking the teacher and blowing off the class the previous year. That was not the case, it was all in the teaching method and the fact that quizzes were over the actual subject matter we had been studying about!
So where does the apology to my mom come from? It comes from me stating that I would never use Algebra, saying it was stupid, and for me just becoming increasingly hard to get along with because I was so frustrated.
I did apologize because throughout the years of working in various offices, the one thing I have had to use in almost every job I have held so far is Algebra. I also apologized for the long nights of fighting to do homework when I knew then and know now that we could have been done with minimal headaches and gone on to enjoy something else, if I had shown less frustration and more willingness to learn. Then again, since going through a second and third round of homework struggles with my own children, I suppose it’s all payback.
Cherry Coley ©