On Tuesday, I sat down and met with a Transfer Advisor at the University. She reviewed all of my credits, did a degree audit for me, showed me the differences in required classes for the Bachelor of Art in Computer Science versus a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and enrolled me in Pre-Calculus 1 which would be meeting in approximately an hour and a half in the building next door.
And just like that, I was a college student all over again.
This time, it’s different. Which is funny because when you’re younger everyone always tells you how everything is different when you a) are older b) are married c) have kids d) are not what you are right now. And for some reason (my guess would be lack of experience), you always fight against that belief. You roll your eyes and pfft “yeah right whatever” it off. Because we are just so damn sure of ourselves when we’re younger aren’t we?
I am terrified of math. And I am so annoyed that I am terrified of math because it is for a really stupid reason.
In my Catholic middle school, there was one math teacher for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. I did not like her. She did not like me. Why a teacher would have a strong dislike for a heavily picked on, super nerdy, late-blooming, glasses-wearing, book-loving middle-schooler is beyond my scope of understanding. But she did.
The problem wasn’t even that she would grab me from my mom’s classroom (next to hers) after school and put me to clean up her classroom, check papers, and do other menial tasks even though she had three children of her own. It wasn’t even that she also made me do this during school hours despite the fact she gave the “better” tasks to the kids she liked.
The problem was she picked on me.
Yes. An adult. Picking on a middle schooler. I was picked on enough as it was by my classmates. Since the popular kids couldn’t be bothered to pick on me, it was the unpopular kids who had field days with me– belittling me, telling me I smelled, calling me names (Mary Magdalene was a favorite- if you’re Catholic you’ll get it), putting dirty drawings in my desk, asking me questions they knew I would be too naive to know the answer to and then laugh at my
stupidity innocence. And this teacher? Not only did she do nothing to stop the behavior when it happened in her class, but she also did everything she could to show the world I was not a smart and obedient little girl but I was really just some overly doted on brat who was everyone’s favorite because she was a kiss-ass (her theory, not actual reality: see above nerdy/late-blooming description).
She did this especially well in her math class by exploiting my one fault– disorganization. She required all students maintain a math binder that was so tediously full of insanely ridiculous specifications, I didn’t even try. I gave up. I am horrible with that sort of anal-retentiveness. And so she took much delight in slashing my binders with red pens, making derisive comments in class about my craptastic mathematical abilities, and using me as an example of what not to do. When I would inevitably begin to cry she would scream at me that “Crying isn’t going to change anything” and to stop it right now I was being ridiculous. She’d storm out of her door, knock on my mother’s door (yes, in the middle of class), bring her into the classroom (yes, while all of the students were there) and scream at both of us about what a horrible little girl I was and what a drama queen and that in the real world this bullshit wouldn’t fly.
Now I don’t know if you remember, but the core of the mathematics you are going to use in high school and college are really laid out in Middle School. If you don’t get those concepts then, every other math class is an uphill war. When your math class (and seventh grade homeroom, joy) are torture sessions, you don’t learn much.
Somehow, I absorbed enough to not only not get anything lower than a C+ my entire time in Middle School, but I also scored a perfect score on my high school entrance exam– even in math. However, once I got into the classroom all of the practical application collapsed under the one crushing belief I had cultivated under Mean Math Teacher– I suck at math. High school math was a struggle and I took the easiest math classes I could manage and took the minimum requirements to graduate. In college, I picked a degree that would result in the fewest math requirements possible and even took advantage of a temporary loophole where an Intro to Microcomputers was counting for math credit. I took one actual math class in college (Finite) and passed it with the necessary C+.
Thirteen years later, I’m back at school. I’m starting off with Pre-Calculus. And I’m going to pass this class with higher than a C+. Because the fact is, I’m good with numbers. I crunch them all of the time. In other words, I am great at math. What I stumble on is nothing more than material I simply wasn’t taught because I was stuck with a teacher who cared more about fulfilling her sadistic desires than doing her damn job. And that is a really stupid reason to have difficulty in anything.
The first class was brutal. I was overwhelmed and slow and racing to keep up. When I went home, I overdosed on Khan Academy. Then I did some more the next day. On Thursday, I did the homework and except for a couple hiccups, I had no problem. At class last night, I was having no problem keeping up with the teacher. I even solved some problems ahead of her. Things are clicking. I know I need to do a lot of practice and I’m not entirely sure how I can get that practice (Khan is great but it’s missing stuff) but I’ll figure it out. I also have to kick the habit of getting panicked and frustrated when something doesn’t click right away and shut up the witchy voice that starts in on me.
So wish me some luck this semester and if you have any advice, tips, suggestions, etc. for the maths, I’d appreciate it. Because I would really like to say a big fat mental “F**k You, Mrs. Rodriguez” this semester. Pardon my French.
“Day 21” by Kimberlyswhimsy on Flickr