Thursday, September 23, 2004

Math Anxiety-ridden Art Smart E-Lo


I went to a tiny little Catholic school, St. Mary's, but we didn’t have nuns as teachers. My kindergarten teacher was a nun, and our principal was a nun. The rest of them were just regular teachers. My seventh grade teacher wasn’t even Catholic. I’m sure they all had very crappy salaries, and most of them were pretty nasty. I had 5 teachers that I liked out of my 9 years.

My math anxiety started in first grade. I can pinpoint the exact moment that it happened. I came back from being sick one day to find that the previous day’s math lesson was learning to subtract 2 digit numbers. We had only done 1 digit subtraction up until then. My teacher gave me my homework and let me start on it during lunch. She didn’t explain it to me, or teach me anything about it. She just handed it to me and said, "This is due by the end of the day." After about 10 minutes of trying to figure it out by myself, I went to her and told her I didn’t understand it. She got pissed and told me to ask someone in my class, and to stay in during recess and finish it. I remember it was a beautiful day, and all my friends were outside playing in the playground. I went and sat down and started to cry. I think another girl in my class tried to help me, but she didn’t really know what she was doing either.

In second grade things got worse for me. I didn’t realize that my problem was that I couldn’t see. I had trouble following when the teacher was writing on the black board. This led to me getting behind in just about every subject. My teacher would send me into the hallway when I couldn’t get my work done. I would sit under the coat racks, hoping nobody would see me, because being sent into the hallway was such an embarrassment. Finally, my parents realized (at the end of the school year) that I needed glasses. What a relief that was. I put my glasses on for the first time and it was like a whole other world appeared in front of me. I couldn’t believe that things looked so different. I was a blind little child. Still am.

Things improved until I moved upstairs in our building. Then we had certain teachers for each subject for the next four years. This was when I ran into Mrs. Cousins, the oldest teacher in the school. She had been a teacher there when one of my mom’s friends went there. She was old, mean, and taught math. And she loved to torture me.

Mrs. Cousins lived for sending me to the blackboard in math class. She knew how terrible I was at math, so she’d ridicule me in front of my class. She made me feel like the stupidest person on earth. It got so bad with her that kids in my class started making fun of me on the bus. I remember Kristi, who thought she was so cool cause her name ended in "i" and was one of the most popular girls in my class, yelling from the back of the bus (the cool people seats) "hey, E-Lo! What’s 10 times 6?" and laughing. When I didn’t answer, she said to her popular (and older, another embarrassment) friend, "see, I told you she couldn’t do math!" Like it was the most hilarious thing ever.

Towards the end of the year in 6th grade, before all the popular kids went to the junior high, and the geeky kids like me stayed at St. Mary’s, our entire class entered in a national poster contest sponsored by Crayola. We had to draw a poster of what we wished most for. Mine was "I wish everybody would share a smile," and I drew 2 peoples heads with their faces close together and one big smile extending from one face to the other, like they were literally sharing a smile. And guess what? I won first place in a national poster contest. My name was in the paper and everything. After that, I was considered the best artist in the class, and nobody made fun of me anymore. I didn’t feel stupid. I knew there was something out there that I could do, besides read (I was always in the top reading groups). I was an artist. I could draw better than anyone in my class. Kristi couldn’t even draw a straight line. Dumb bitch.

So here I am, years later, writing a thesis on the theory of Multiple Intelligences. The theory basically says that everybody has different levels of intelligence in different areas. So the idea behind my thesis is, even if you aren’t traditionally smart, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t intelligent in other areas, like art or music. It all stems from somewhere deep within me, I guess. I’m art smart. Always have been, always will be. And I still can’t do math. I’m probably worse at it now then I was back then. But I have a Master’s degree. So ha ha to all the kids that made fun of me for not being able to do math. Nanny nanny poo poo.

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