|You Passed 8th Grade Math|
Congratulations, you got 7/10 correct!
Still stupid, yes, but stupid on at LEAST an 8th grade level! This is way better than my previous belief that I was stupid on a 3rd grade level.
I've told you before (pay attention, people) that I'm beyond dumb at math. I'm dumb squared, in fact. I count with my fingers to add. Often, when presented with a simple math problem, I cock my head to the side like a Labrador puppy and go all glassy-eyed. I get that Anna Nicole look, without the inconvenience of porn star-sized boobs getting in the way.
On every standardized math test I've ever taken, I have answered the first few questions diligently and thoughtfully, and then as the questions went on, I would eventually reach a point (often around question #10) where I would surrender, and just begin putting down C for all my answers. I tended to do well enough in the other areas that it all worked out without my having to attend classes in the special ed trailer. (I still went there looking for dates, but didn't have to stay.)
Upon entering college, I was informed that my unspectacular performance on the math portion of the entrance test doomed me to having to take Basic Math, a class that the gifted--and even the merely normal--kids didn't have to take. As it turned out, I loved my teacher in that class, Professor Gann. He was one of the few instructors I'd ever had in that subject who had a way of explaining that weirdo math stuff so that I sometimes got it. I managed to maintain an unimpressive-but-passing C in that class all semester. On the day of the last class before our final exam, Gann gave the standard speech about how there would be no makeup for the final--you had to be there for that test, no excuses, and if you didn't make it, you would have no opportunity to retake the test. You'd get a zero for the final, and the average of that score and the scores you had gotten on the other tests and assignments throughout the semester would result in your final grade (with the final weighing heavier, naturally). If you had a high enough grade prior to the final exam, missing that final exam might not cause you to fail...but if you had a C like I did, you better be there, or you were screwed.
I woke up the morning of my math final convinced that I'd flunk the test...and why go through the humiliation? I made a spur-of-the-moment decision not to bother. I skipped the final and my roommate and I went shopping. And I failed the class, of course. But I got some really, really cute shoes at the mall.
So I had to retake Basic Math. I chose the same instructor. When he spotted me in class, he shook his head and admonished me for not attending the final last semester. Clearly, the guy thought I was nuts. "You had a C! You would have passed if you'd just come to the final!" I gave him a slack-jawed "I ain't too bright" grin and mumbled something incoherent.
You'd think perhaps I'd do better in the class the second time around, since we would just be going over the same material as last semester. But I have never actually "learned" anything that has to do with math. I have memorized a few things--for instance, I have memorized the answer to 6 x 8...but I've been resolute in my determination not to actually learn anything in any math class. Since I have an incredibly short memory, and since I have a cruise ship-sized mental block regarding math, I had taken a moment at the end of the previous semester to shake my head like an Etch-A-Sketch and empty it of whatever math principles might be cluttering up the space I normally reserve for memorizing song lyrics, and poof: The Basic Math stuff was gone. So in semester #2 of Professor Gann's class, I maintained my same old C average. And when finals time rolled around, I again woke up convinced I'd flunk.
Now I know what you're thinking--no way would I skip the final a second time. That would be so incredibly stupid, so self defeating. Who would sit through a hated class twice, only to force failure both times? Me, apparently. I skipped the final.
The next day I was surprised to get a phone call from Professor Gann. He told me there was no way he was letting me get away with skipping the final two semesters in a row after maintaining a passing grade both semesters up til finals time. He said I'd better get my ass to his office that afternoon and take the damn final. So I went, marveling all the while at the fact that he was breaking his sworn promise not to let anyone retake the final for any reason. I sat at a lone little desk right outside his office door and took the test, while he sat at his desk two feet away, probably asking himself over and over, "What is wrong with this jackass?" When I finished the test, he made me wait while he graded it on the spot. I got a C. He rolled his eyes at me and said, "See? You passed. You would have passed it last semester. Stop skipping finals." I gave him a slack-jawed grin and mumbled something incoherent.
Poor Professor Gann. I'm sure any teacher would tell you there's something incredibly satisfying about finally "getting through" to a student who was previously having a hard time learning something. I imagine teachers live for those really rewarding moments when they can sort of see a light bulb go off over a kid's head as he or she suddenly understands and maybe even begins to enjoy the subject. A giant dum-dum like me makes it hard for a teacher to feel good about his teaching abilities, and poor Professor Gann must have had a moment or two when he wondered why the hell he bothered working so hard to teach something that some students work so hard at not learning. Hopefully he had lots of rewarding moments with smarter, more eager students than myself, and hopefully those rewarding moments made up for the times he had really thick-skulled morons in his class who seemed to be intentionally dumbing the place up.
My apologies to you, Professor Gann. The light bulb never went off for me, and I never got any smarter or enjoyed the subject any more. But you were a great teacher. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that you can put a frilly red dress on a hog, but you can't teach the hog to flamenco dance.