Forgotten knowledge

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Pop quizzes are always on Mondays, reviews and mock tests are always on Wednesdays and real tests are on Fridays. It had been that way since I first started going to school while growing up on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

By the time I’d reached high school what day teachers administered tests had been well established. Obviously, Mr. Myers didn’t understand the rules of the educational system at all. That would explain why he handed out a real test on Tuesday – the first day of school.

Mr. Myers was my tenth-grade math teacher at Briarwood High School, home of the Mighty Buccaneers. He said the test was to gauge what we had remembered since the ninth grade. I didn’t need a test for that. I could’ve just told him. I’d forgotten most everything over the long summer break. And rightly so. Only have so much room in my brain and remembering useless math stuff just got in the way.

Between digging on Cliff Condos, jumping bikes across Cripple Creek, dirt clod battles, the never-ending water balloon wars with the kids from The Duke of Gloucester, and Saturday night campouts at Neighbor Thomas’s, there wasn’t time to remember math. Unless, of course, you include counting the number of times you’re hit with dirt clods or water balloons as math.

The test landed on my desk with a resounding THUD heard throughout the classroom. It wasn’t the normal one-pager. The test was 10 pages full of problems to be solved. By whom I didn’t have a clue. Just knew it wasn’t gonna be me.

Math tests were always one page with no more than 10 problems. That was a math rule. Either Mr. Myers had forgotten how to count over the summer break or he had forgotten that rule also. Looking around the room at all the other shocked faces, I thought someone would bring that fact up to him. I was wrong.

Picking up my pencil, I began the long, painstaking, head scratching, mother of all math tests. Number of dirt clod battles last summer was 10. There were five campouts in Neighbor Thomas’s backyard. On the Duke of Gloucester there were four and on Flamingo there was three kids who went to the hospital due to summertime “accidents.” These numbers I remembered … and one more.

Always bring a number two pencil to math class. After finishing the first page of the test, it was obvious I didn’t get one problem right. With still 40 minutes left, I turned the page thinking foolishly that things couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong once again.

The second page wasn’t full of numbers but, rather, a bunch of words. Word problems had to have been invented by an English teacher who decided to teach math instead. Not only did you have to read, but you also had to figure out the math amongst all those words. Yours Truly wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box when it came to math, but making me do word problems made me feel as dumb as an eraser.

Finally, 40 problems and 10 pages later, the bell rang for the end of class, rescuing me from math purgatory. Handing in my test, Mr. Myers must’ve noticed the difficulty I had had with his mother of all math tests. That, or the beads of sweat that had formed on my brow dripping on his desk was a dead giveaway. He asked me to wait after class. Such an invitation from a teacher never turned out well for a student. I was wrong yet a third time.

“Well, what did you learn?” He asked. I replied that I learned just how much I’d forgotten over the summer. Thumbing through my test he continued, “And?” After thinking for a moment I gave the only answer I knew to be right.

“Guess I need to take some time during the summer reviewing math so I don’t forget what I learned.”

“And that’s the whole reason for this exercise.” He then smiled and marked an “A” on my test.

That was 45 years ago and math was no longer my worst subject. By graduation, it had become my best. It’s truly amazing how a teacher can change your life. Here’s hoping all of your children have at least one like Mr. Myers. With the high caliber teachers we have in this county, the numbers add up that they will.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]