Home > Fifty Five Is The New > 10 x 10 = Detention

10 x 10 = Detention


I thought I was stupid as a kid…no lie.
To be fair, we can all make that claim…some of us are more distinguished in the field than others, to be sure.
But when it came to school, especially numbers, I was-to my own way of reckoning-top of the heap.

Things were okay for a while…first through third grade were actually smooth sailing.
I could even add back then without counting fingers and toes.
But when 4th grade came about, two things happened. The New Math came in and I broke my arm.

The broken arm (suffered by falling out of bed, tres tragique!)was easy. But the “New Math,” thrown in there along with fractions and such, was total confusion.
I took copious notes, including suggested “nifty tricks,” but to no avail.
My mind was blown. I’d cry at night before my school books…unable to do the homework.

Fortune shone upon me in that my right hand was part of the arm that was broken so I couldn’t actually “do” the homework, and because there were 60 kids in the class room, the teacher didn’t have a lot of chances to give personal attention.

I can’t remember some of how I made it from one grade to another…sure felt like I was just caught up in the tide and pushed along with everybody else.

It wasn’t until sixth grade or so that one of the nuns (I went to Catholic school)
noticed I couldn’t add. All heck broke loose, but still I went on to seventh grade and Sister Christopher.

I was able understand physics but unable to do simple (let alone complex) math. It was hell standing up there before the blackboard in front of a packed classroom and try to do what Sister Christopher wanted.

God knows I tried, but no matter what the answers never came out the same way twice.
At first she punished me thinking I was just playing a game. She kicked me out of the class, made me stay after school, sent notes home and gave me extra assignments. Nothing changed. My parents couldn’t help, heck they didn’t understand the New Math either!

I don’t have many clear memories of these school days. Some are blurred in the selective filing system of aging while others are distorted due to the proclivities of my then-mental disorder.

I do remember Sister Christopher taking a special interest. I remember her coming into the hallway where I sat while banned from her class. I remember her calling me over, my knees shaking and my brain starting to get fuzzy.
She touched my shoulder and said things would be okay, so I calmed down.
We had a talk. We made a deal. I’d do what I could in math and study twice as hard in science…hey! Worked for me!

Sister Christopher was and remains one of my favorite teachers, not because I was her pet-I wasn’t. She saw what no one else saw, and when she couldn’t reach past that impervious road block that was my personality disorder, she didn’t cringe. She worked with what she could.

Maybe I couldn’t do the math but I could stand up there in science class (she also taught science) and expound on the Genetic Code, and all kinds of stuff. By the end of that school year I was feeling a lot better about things. I wan’t having so many
“blanks” (where I didn’t feel present for days and weeks at a time).

It was okay to be who I was…even if it meant loosing time once in a while.
Through the years I’ve had bouts of “blanks.” In 1980 I finally got help and haven’t had many major setbacks since about 1983 or so.

The math is still a problem although science-wise, all is well.
I may never be able to do long division, and still need to pull out the calculator for all things numeric, but thanks to Sister Christopher at least I don’t hate myself for being that way.

So for today, Fifty-five is all about the number 10, not because it’s the age (for me) when the new math came in…but because the painful memories of those experiences no longer have that crippling effect over me.

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