Category Archives: teachers

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The Boob Tube Ruined Algebra

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Land of Confusion.”

Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!


Ninth grade algebra made me want to scream. It was a combination of things: my mind didn’t connect with the math and the teacher stunk.

Yeah, I’m blaming the teacher. She hated me. I had long, dirty-blonde hair, wore wire-rimmed glasses, and looked countercultural (early 1970’s and hippie like). She invited any student that was having problems to come in after class for extra help. When I did, she blew me off and said just read the math book, it will explain it to you. She frequently made remarks about how the protesting students on campus were scum and I guess she pegged me as scum.

Besides hating me, she was nearly as clueless about algebra as I was. So many times the smartest kids in the class had to correct her work on the blackboard since she got all confused and couldn’t solve the math problems.

She was short, chubby, and big-busted. And she insisted on wearing sheath dresses from a few years back when she was thinner. That’s how the students gave her the nickname of Boob Tube.

I nearly failed that class. The next year I took geometry and got an A in it. So it wasn’t just me being totally stupid.

In college, I took algebra even though I knew it may bring down my grade-point average. I was averaging an A all through that class until the chapters on algorithms. Then I got lost and ended up with a B. Yet I was thrilled that I understood the algebraic concepts and passed with a decent grade.

I should have visited my old algebra teacher and shoved that B grade into her face. Then I should’ve told her she needed to get an algeBRA.

Instruments of Writing Destruction

I stabbed him. He pushed me to the limit. He kept pushing me while we lined up to walk to the library in the first grade.

The weapon: my freshly sharpened #2 pencil.

This elementary school stabbing elicited very little reaction from the teacher. Although she did give me the evil eye as she took my stabbing victim to the sink to wash off the lead mark I left on his arm.

My mother always told me I was too passive and sensitive and that I should stand up for myself. So I stood up and lashed out. Today I might have been suspended, if not arrested.

On another day, this same teacher’s lesson plan included a writing assignment. I listened to her directions and grabbed a piece of paper to start writing. In a misguided fit of enthusiasm, I pulled out my box of crayons instead of a boring (and deadly) black-lead pencil.

I carefully formed each letter on my paper, aiming for printing perfection. I alternated a different crayon color for each letter I printed. It was colorful, joyful, and beautiful.

After I handed in this assignment, the teacher pulled out my multicolored paper and held it up for the whole class to see. I thought she was showing off my stellar bit of work.

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Instead of praising my choice of writing instruments and creativity, she used my paper as a prime example of what not to do. Emphatically she said, “Never, ever hand in a paper like this one.” Of course my name was boldly printed at the top of the page and everyone could see who the culprit was of this crayon-writing crime.

In addition to being called out as a coffee-swilling first grader, assault with a pencil and deviant-writing behavior was also added to my record. My public school education was off to a great start.

The Philosophy of Parakeets

When I was young, a neighbor friend of mine had two parakeets. The family was tired of these birds and since I always enjoyed them, they asked me if I wanted to keep them. I said yes.

These neighbors were German, or I should say they were Americans with German ancestry. They gave the birds German names: Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.

Now those were some complicated names for a kid and a couple of parakeets. My friend’s brother explained that they were named after some kind of philosophers. At the time, that explanation didn’t mean much to me.

The birds kept those names. I spoke endearing little things to Nietzsche and Schopenhauer every day.

I ended up being interested in philosophy. Recently, I read The Birth of Tragedy by Nietzsche and enjoyed it.

It didn’t start out that way. I tried to read it about two years ago and couldn’t get past the language and ideas. But if I put a book down and restart it at a later date, I discovered that not only can I get through it, I often have a good reading experience after all.

The first thing The Birth of Tragedy reminded me of was Camille Paglia. She also wrote extensively about the division between Apollo and Dionysus. And this Nietzsche guy was writing this way before her! How fun. I love to make connections between the past and present.

Also it reminded me of an English professor that taught 19th century American literature. He used to drop philosopher’s names in class in order to illustrate some point. I wanted to know more. I had already read some literature from the 19th century and loved it; his class increased that love. I still reread sections of Moby Dick as if it were scripture by just randomly pointing to a sentence in the book and going wild with the implications and deeper meaning. The 19th century Nietzsche with his deep and dark is right up my alley.

Back to reality. My mother used to force me to call my father. She wanted me to beg him to come back to her even though she divorced him. Between the calls she made and the calls she forced me to make, he was getting in trouble at work. I started to refuse to call him. After one such refusal, she grabbed one of my birds and threatened to kill it if I didn’t call him. She eventually released the bird, and I did not call.

I never knew which bird she grabbed. Was it Nietzsche or Schopenhauer that nearly bit the dust? A question for philosophy.

I must continue my readings.