Math: Remembering the Subject and the Mentor

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Last night I had another weird dream. “Another” because it’s almost recurring. “Weird” because it featured someone who already passed away months ago.

It was about my high school Math teacher. She had a funny surname so let’s just call her by her lovely first name, Dolores.

It wasn’t the first time I dreamed of her since her passing. In my dreams I was aware that she was gone but we had conversations like we had in high school, like she was still alive.

Dreaming about dead people is somewhat normal for me. I’m not being creepy here but I honestly often dream about my late uncles and grandmother. Their faces would be vivid, looking calm and at peace; our conversations, often vague.

But to have dreams about Mrs. Dolores was especially puzzling since we were never really that close. I had other teachers whom I considered buddies, but her, she was a mentor, someone I respected and not crack a joke on.

Upon waking up from my dream last night, I got to think of a couple of things as to why she could possibly be in my subconscious mind.

For one, she succumbed to cancer.

Second, she was a prominent character in me and my siblings school life. She liked my siblings for being smart and I guess she liked me for being siblings with the smart ones.

Lastly, because she taught Math and I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with numbers!

While I can proudly say that my family and friends trust me in budgeting their money with transparency (e.g. my dad’s business petty cash, my mom’s bills, budget for out of town trips with friends, etc.), I can truly say I am nothing without a good ole calculator and a handy excel formula.

Looking back, I knew exactly when my brain started fighting Math. It was in sixth grade.

You see, I was an A student, not exactly a straight A, but always enough for me to make it to the honor roll. And, in class, there were also these uninterested, lazy students.

One time, during Math class, we had a girls vs. boys wiz game. Our teacher (not Mrs. Dolores) decided to pick one of these lazy boys to represent the boys and me to represent the girls. I remember hearing the rest of the boys complain because it was apparently unfair that a not so trusted team member was pitted against an honor student, me.

It’s been almost over two decades now, but I can still remember how nervous I felt at that moment. “People are gonna find out I’m not that smart after all,” I told myself. I already knew I was slow in Math. Logic-wise, I was good at knowing how and when to use formulas. However, I was not quick at computing. That was never a problem since written exams gave me enough time to perform my really slow computation. But this time, the Math problems had to be solved in front of everyone and ASAP!

Without stating the details, I think you now know what happened there (Insert sad emoji).

There are two ways in handling humiliation. Either you rise up to the occasion or you let that failure pull you down further.

Let’s just say that I chose the latter (insert grin emoji here).

I went about the rest of my school years with real hatred against Math. I became lazy in learning the subject. I’d provide answers to exams and do home works for classmates who were good at Math but would otherwise flunk at History and Literature. In return, I’d have them solve all of my Math problems for me.

By high school, I knew that my teachers were aware of my weak spot, that one thing that’s pulling me from acing again. But then there was Mrs. Dolores. She was not only my Math teacher, she was also my class adviser in senior year. And she trusted me.

She’d flawlessly discuss equations and formulas to the class, and despite the fact that I could never quite comprehend them, she’d look at me with a smile as she would write the grand solution as if she trusted I knew it all along. It was amusing at that time. But reminiscing on it now, it’s actually beautiful.

How teachers make students feel can make or break their confidence. Mrs. Dolores knew this and she made sure that, amid her trademark yells and that super saiyan look on her face when she reprimanded students (she was also the Prefect of Discipline, BTW), there was always something so motherly and nurturing about here. I may have only realized that now, but that doesn’t make me any less lucky to have known and shared a moment with her. ♥

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