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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why am I a teacher again?

I’ve read that teachers who were crap at Mathematics as a kid are the best at teaching it because they’ve processed the methods of problem solving in their brains in more simplistic terms. This allegedly enhances the teacher’s ability to explain the formulae at the student’s level.

This theory suits me. I remember sitting at the dinner table while my father irritably attempted to help me with my homework and explain simple algebra.

Eventually, after several cracks at getting it through my dim-witted head, he’d yell something like, “Why don’t you understand? Are you stupid?”

Mum would then yell at him, and I’d burst into tears. Poor Dad. I was seriously as thick as a brick.

Who knew my lack of algebraic nous would make me a more empathetic teacher, eh?

However, this morning I braced myself for what I knew would take me to the outer limits of my sanity; delivering yet ANOTHER lesson on converting mixed numbers to improper fractions and vice versa to my fledgling ten year old students.

Before even beginning the activity I was conscious of the rogue muscle in the back of my neck tightening up ominously.

“So…” I chirped brightly, after furiously drawing illustration after illustration on the whiteboard, “now can you see how four and three quarters equals nineteen quarters?”

I desperately scanned the sea of uncomprehending faces.

Clearly, not one of them 'got' it.

The neck muscle delivered a painful spasm.

Grabbing the lolly jar I extracted five jelly snakes. The lollies ensnared the kids’ attention with twenty-eight faces watching me in rapt fascination as I broke four of the snakes into quarters.

“See!” I enthused, counting all the quarters up to nineteen and feeling like the World’s #1 teacher. 
“Do you understand now?”

“Yes, Gilbert?” I’d noticed his saucer-eyed interest and anticipated his hopefully educated comment.

“Can I have those lollies, Mrs P?”

I looked at my watch. Every muscle in the back of my head was squeezing like a disgruntled python and waves of nausea had set in.

It was ten minutes until lunch. ‘There’s one solitary, squished aspirin in my bag but I really should wait until I can take it with food,’ I thought bleakly.

While the kids struggled through the practise sums on the board, and I walked around wondering if I was actually suffering an aneurism, I planned my attack.

I had roughly twenty minutes at morning tea to eat my salad, make a cup of tea, take my painkiller and go to the loo. It was imperative I get that aspirin into my system as soon as possible BUT... I was also busting to go to the toilet. I couldn’t skip it because I had duty at second break and couldn’t hold on until 3:00pm.

No… I’d take my chances. Food and painkiller took precedence.

Finally the bell rang and I sprinted up to the staffroom, grappled through the fridge to find my lunch and set about pouring the dressing on the salad.

“Who’s on duty in the Grade Two area, Pinky?” boomed Emmsie as she stared out the window at the unsupervised Grade Twos who were enjoying their rare freedom and swinging from the rafters.

“Not me!” I bawled back self-righteously.

“Well how come your name’s down on the roster?” she called back.


I’d mixed up my f##king duties.

The salad went back in the fridge to wilt itself away until second break and my throbbing headache was granted permission to expand at leisure.