In grade 10, my math teacher showed up to class to snooze and babble. He took naps while we took tests, and he used chalk to write out problems on the board while we used chalk to whip at his head. Students enjoyed discreetly dropping inappropriate items into his pockets as he walked past them and they took full advantage of the test scoring keys that he left open on his desk. I didn’t learn much that year. In fact, the classroom was so distracting and intimidating that I managed to achieve my worst math grade ever. Worst teacher ever.
The next year, having realized just how far I had fallen behind in math, I took what, at the time, was an embarrassing step. I chose to enrol myself in the general math program. Not the advanced, headed off to university program. I prepared myself to join a class of losers being taught by a woefully inadequate football coach.
Find me in this photo!
Mr Verhoeven did not employ any discipline in his classroom, even though the students had a reputation as being unruly troublemakers. Truthfully, he didn’t need to. He was quiet, conscientious, and respectful of the students, and the students behaved the same way towards him. He paid attention to who was succeeding and gave special care to those who struggled. It was easy to learn in his classroom because he kept everyone relaxed and comfortable. I caught up quickly and ended up at the top of the class. And when I returned to the advanced math stream, I remained at the top of the class with a new-found respect for the teacher and the students who struggled in the class I left behind.
I fast forward once again to university, to the dreaded first year statistics course where the professor says, “two thirds of you will fail my course.” The first test came along and I managed to fail it along with nearly everyone else in the class. When I attempted to argue my unfair and undeserved grade with the professor, he told me that he knew I knew the answers but I wasn’t expressing myself clearly. For example, the median is not the middle item in a list, but rather the middle item in an ordered list. He was firm about not changing anyone’s grade. He worked hard to teach us that hard work and careful attention to detail would allow us to recover from failure.
I went into the final exam with a terrible grade but we were told if we achieved a better grade on that exam, it would become our final grade. I remember handing in my exam paper early. The professor took it, smiled at me, and asked if I had double checked it, was sure I was finished? I was sure. 🙂