Wednesday, April 8, 2009

MamaKat's Writers Workshop

Mama Kat's Writers Workshop

Of the five prompts... I chose the one entitled.

"Describe a hard time you gave a teacher... what would you say to him/her today?"


I was in 8th grade, Jr. High. I had to take Algebra. It was required. I didn't want to.

I could barely add two and two... I am that bad at math. I still, to this day, add on my fingers.

I HAD to take Algebra. I was in an Advanced Placement program, and Algebra was a required

horror I was dreading. I sailed through 7th grade Math. Mr. Walston was exceedingly nice to me and gave me extra help and sat me next to the cutest and smartest boy in class. When Dehn spoke... I listened... swoon.

But Dr. Rubio's class loomed ahead of me. I remember one sunny day in 7th grade, I had passed by his classroom to go to the restroom and his door was open. He was yelling at the top of his lungs, the integers they were supposed to know. I grew up in a loud household. Italians are way loud people. No problem. Dr. Rubio had a hard to understand Filipino accent that sent shudders through my spine, even when he just spoke in a normal voice. Add to that, the fact that I was expected to know a lot of stuff before entering his classroom, and I just wanted to die right then and there.

So 8th grade arrives and Dr. Rubio is my 4th period teacher.

First 5 minutes of class, he quizzes us on quadratic equations, exponents, integers, prime numbers, etc... We each had to stand up at our desks, and when he fired a question at us, we had to know the answer immediately or we had to stand in front of the class and tell everyone we aren't ready for Algebra yet. The worst part... when the someone didn't know the answer...He would yell

"YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THAT YET?!?" and bang a huge stick on his desk.

My turn. The question...It was the square root of something... Of course I have no clue,

so he does his thing with the yelling and the stick... and I walk to the front of the class.

I am the first one.. AND THE LAST ONE, at the front of the class. He points his stick at me and says to the class... "This one... she will not pass this class...I am very disappointed in her." then he sat down, had the other kids sit down, and he made me stand there for another minute.

Remember... I had been on stage by this age... for about 9 years now. Being in front of my peers didn't bother me, but being called out as dumb? NO! THAT wasn't okay. When he asked me to sit down, I walked... very slowly to his desk, leaned in juuuust a little and whispered to him...

"You aren't allowed to treat me like this. I'm going to see Mr. Rossi after school"

He replied... "Good... I'll escort you."

I sat down shivering with hatred.

I went to Mr. Rossi's office, and Dr. Rubio was there too.

Dr. Rubio got to go in first. I didn't think this was fair. I was the one with the problem. What could he possibly say about me? It was my turn next, and Dr. Rubio was still in the room. I was shaking. What do I say? What do I do? I'm just a 13 yr old kid!

Then I calmed. Yeah... I thought... I'm a 13 year old kid with great parents that taught me to never back down, and to stick up for myself, no matter what.

I was a blithering idiot. I cried, and blurted everything out like a weak little rag doll.

Mr. Rossi handed me a tissue, and I yelled at Dr. Rubio. I said "How dare you tell everyone I won' t pass the class! You don't know me! You don't know what I can do! You are a mean, rotten man!"

HE LAUGHED! He just stood there and shook with laughter, placed one hand on my shoulder,

pulled my chin up with a finger and said these words to me.

"You come from fine stock, young Ms. Bruni. I know your parents well. They have come a long, hard way to this country to give you the very best of everything they did not have. I know you passed last year because of your teacher's compassion, and you must learn the concepts to fulfill your potential. I am sorry I embarrassed you.. but you have an air of defiance I needed to break down. Mission accomplished wouldn't you say?" All I could say in between sobs was... "You know my parents?"

He laughed some more. Mr. Rossi, a family friend, Italian, and my Principal, giggled too.

I softened as soon as he mentioned my parents. I suspected he had risen from extreme poverty and a life of turmoil also, and had made good in America. His children, I came to find out, were 1st Generation Filipino, and much was expected of them also.

He apologized to me in front of my class, and proceeded to tell all of them my parents journey to America... he knew almost as much as I did. I warmed to him a little after that.

I saw him about 15 years ago. He pointed to me and said "What's the square root of 144?"

I said "12" and you went easy on me."

He laughed again and he mingled amongst the crowd. He wanted me to know he hadn't forgotten about me.

If I were to see him now...I would bound up to him and happily tell him the Math gene skipped generations, and my three boys are MATH GENIUSES! Truly... they are soo ahead of their peers, it's ridiculous. I inherited the love of the written word, spoken word, lyrical word, all words.

I never did get above a "C" in his class. My only "C" I ever got in my life. I never worked so hard for a grade in my life either.

That "C" in my book, was with A+ effort.

Oh.. and 2+2 is 4!

Aren't you proud of me?


  1. That was such a cool story. It makes me want to reflect on my past teachers and see if there were any lessons I was taught that I didn't realize I was learning. Loved this!

  2. OM Goodness! What a great story. I too was mathmatically challenged - but know how important it is to make the effort.

    I had a similar experience, tried to stay out of one teacher's classes as much as possible in HS. He was loud, overbearing, and (I thought) mean. Little did I know that he was an AWESOME teacher and I learned more in his class than any other math teacher I EVER had.

    Thanks for sharing your story - it was great!

  3. What a great story! It's amazing how those things that teach us the most are often not the things we excell at. We learn so much from our struggles!

  4. To all three of you...

    Yes, yes and oh, we sure do, don't we?

  5. I've decided you're one of my favorites to read on Thursdays! You are so clever!

    I also inherited the love of words and literature, and missed the math gene. I hope my kids do well in Math then!

    Awesome experience, thanks for sharing!

  6. That is the mark of a good teacher. My best teachers were always my hardest, meanest ones. I can see that now as I look back. I hope you share this story with your own kids. Very inspiring.

  7. Math was always my hardest subject too! I don't know how I ever passed Statistics in college. No idea! I am glad that you achieved a C with A plus effort. I am SO glad your boys have the math gene. Phew!

  8. So proud!! :) What a wonderful turnout :) I was afraid at the beginning! Just the word "algebra" makes me cringe!

  9. Wow! What a great story. I see you've been a firecracker from the beginning! Why doesn't that surprise me.

  10. You are such a great story teller. That was like an extended Hallmark commercial. You poor girl, what a mean trick but at least there was a softness/understanding there too. I was always good at math but History... I can't get all those dates a peeps lined up in my head.

  11. that is a great story and he seems like a great teacher.

  12. I had a D+ in Algerbra-and that was trying so hard!
    I repeated my math in college two times, because I had to have a c to enter the Education college. Ugh!
    I totally understand your issues with math. (My son thinks I am great because I correct his second grade math...just wait until middle school-he will be on his own!)

  13. Awesome story! I skipped over this prompt this week...actually I skipped over all the prompts this week but now I'm thinking I should have thought harder after all.



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