Friday, July 18

Obituaries, Algebra and Humility

For the last 10-12 years, I have had the habit of checking the obituaries in my hometown newspaper (online) nearly every day. I find classmates, neighbors and old friends of my parents, on occasion. While I was back home last weekend, I saw an obit and the name looked very familiar. I read on, and realized it was the poor woman who had the misfortune to try and teach me 8th grade algebra. She was 98.

Math was never my strong suit, although I overcame most of my trouble with lower math at some point, with the help of calculators. But plane geometry and algebra were my nemeses; especially algebra. I remember doing homework and feeling so good about it because I thought I had nailed it. The next day in school, I would learn that NONE of it was correct. I felt so defeated and I eventually gave up trying to learn what I was doing wrong. It was the only class I ever received a "D" grade for - and I was so very happy when 8th grade was over.

It would be conceited to expect that Mrs. Roush remembered me, or singled me out as her worst student ever, but sometimes I wonder. I had a teacher in 7th grade, in another school, who later became the Dean of Students at my college. She and I had a lot of face to face time while I was in college, and I thought for certain that I was high on her list of - if not favorites - at least well remembered students. Imagine my surprise when I went to the one and only reunion I have attended at my college and learned that she had absolutely no idea who I was. I was crushed and in total disbelief. A good lesson in humility, that.


Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher (1889-1951)


ET said...

Welcome to the World of the Invisible!

sage said...

I was wondering how you were going to tie Obits and Algebra together--I was thinking maybe some struggling student did what a lot of algebra students only dream of-murder.

Kate said...

Do you suppose your teacher was getting slightly vacant? I've had the experience of teachers remembering me but in the conversation whom they remembered wasn't me at all.

Maria said...

I sympathise with both you and the teacher who didn't remember you. When I meet a former student now all grown up and they say, "Remember me?" I usually have to ask for a name and when they give me one, I can see it on my roster as if it were yesterday. As we talk, I can get more clues by whether we had Josephine, my parrot, or Sparkie, the school's cat in my classroom. I love running into "my kids" and hearing about their lives.

Anonymous said...

Fifteen years after my 8th grade math teacher failed me I saw her at a social event. I introduced myself and said, "You will probably remember me, you failed me in 8th grade math." She replied, "Oh my dear, I failed so many!.

Laura said...

Well, if you think about it, a teacher who's had X number of students for an hour a day for algebra, times the number of years that have passed since the teacher last saw the student = the highly probably chance that the teacher might forget! Especially given how much we change between middle school and college! LOL

Algebra and I simply did not get along. I fought it through 3 semesters in college, struggling every step of the way!

PI said...

And do you ever have a day when you wish you had algebra at your finger tips?
I know that feeling; on my one and only School reunion someone looke at my name badge and said 'You're not her!'
Apparently there was a younger student with the same name.

JeanMac said...

Too funny.

Nancy said...


My brother in law, Ernie, only had one suit from the time he was 21 until he died at 80.

As you can imagine, sometimes he was way ahead of a trend like wide lapels and sometimes he was way behind like having cuffs when everyone else had straight pants.

When he was about 60 his mother died and at the viewing a woman came in and approached Ernie and told him she was Miss Clark, his kindergarten teacher.We were all amazed that she knew him.

On the way home my husband and I were in the front of the car and our 10 year old son was in the back. I said to my husband,"Wasn't it extraordinary that Miss Clark knew Ernie after all these years?"

A little voice came from the back seat as our young boy announced, "She recognized his suit."

kenju said...

LOL....Nancy! I had a history teacher in high school who wore the same suit for months (same shirt too, it appeared).

Ginnie said...

You are the last person in the world that I would expect to be reading the obits!

Shephard said...

I had a teacher react in shock to my niece when my niece told her that I remembered her as one of my fave teachers. Funny the impressions we leave.