Saturday, June 30, 2012

Strenth of Character (GBE2 #58--Topic: Strength)

In the original GBE, one of my first posts was about pet peeves.  One of those peeves was when people pronounce the word 'strength' (or length) without the 'G' sound.  The sound of a person saying "strenth" or "lenth" can make me cringe like nails on a chalkboard.

Now, I realize that the pronunciation of these words is a regional thing.  Whether we use that g-sound in those words mostly depends on where in this country we've spent the majority of our years--much like whether you call your sparkly carbonated beverage soda or pop...or even just a coke.  It might be a peeve of mine but I understand that it's not wrong and I've never meant any insult to those who feel that G is silent.

But there's a reason why it's nails on a chalkboard for me.  And it has nothing to do with the words themselves...but rather the first person that I'd ever encountered that pronounced those words in that manner.

Mrs. Angerame.  My ninth grade math teacher.

Math has never been my strong suit.  Even as big a nerd as I claim to be, getting a passing grade in math was always a struggle.  Despite this, I'd been accelerated a year ahead in math since the sixth grade.  In my freshman year of high school, I was taking tenth grade math, which in New York State in the early 90's, meant geometry.

I was lost.  Not just lost in math....lost in just about every aspect of my life.  All my friends had deserted me (there is a post about that somewhere...) and my father had just died.  I spent most of my free time eating, writing, listening to music and eating some more.  My studies were lost in a sea of procrastination.  Looking back, I can plainly see what a mess I was...but at the time...well it just felt normal

When grades came in, my mom was displeased.  I needed to get back on track.  I needed to get serious.  A 30 in math was not going to fly in our family.

I went to my teacher.  I asked her if there was a time before school started that we could meet so that I could get some extra help.  I asked her if I could meet with her on my lunch break.  There were reasons why I could not stay after school but I tried to take responsibility and get the help that I needed.

She told me if I couldn't come after school then there was no way she could help me.

Each day spent in that class, I felt like I was drowning.  I asked for help.  I told her I didn't understand.  She made me feel small and stupid almost daily.

Then one day, she said something that angers me to this day.

"Stephanie, it's a wonder that you've been properly toilet trained seeing as you can't even comprehend simple math."

So...because I struggled to understand GEOMETRY (not simple math by a long shot...), I must be mentally deficient and should feel fortunate that I could even wipe my own ass.

From a teacher, that is absurdly unacceptable.

She has no idea how much that abusive comment affected me.  As the other students chuckled at her words, I felt ever smaller and more stupid.  I already felt like I didn't belong and this just made things worse.  I knew she was out of line but a small part of me was afraid that it might be true.  Being smart was who I was....my whole identity...if I didn't have that...well, then I had absolutely nothing to hold onto.

Somehow, even without her "simple math", I managed to go to college, have a rewarding job, get married and make some pretty amazing (and smart) babies.  I even manage that ass-wiping thing on a daily basis.  I'd like her to know that I turned out pretty damn great...no thanks to her.

Mostly, I'd like her to know that she failed that day--both as a teacher and a human being.  She had the power and the strength (or strenth) to help guide a student who had lost her way. 

But instead of building me up, she chose to knock me down.

I hope she's proud.









 

2 comments:

  1. In a very negative way, most strength is gained. Thank her for some of your gumption and your ability to accomplish, well, anything!  She may have been your very first lesson in Simple Strength.  ♥

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  2. There are so many wonderful teachers out there. Men and women who give of themselves, build confidence in their students, help to develop life-long learners, and show kids that they can be everything and anything they dream.

    Sadly, mixed in with all of those generous hearts is the occasional jackwagon who has no business speaking to children, much less taking a position of authority with them. Sorry you got one of those.

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