Tuesday, September 21, 2010


When I was in Junior High, my mom left my step-dad and we moved from south Texas back up to Cleveland, Ohio.  Enrolling mid-semester in a five-story urban school created problems for all.  The counselors tried to find classes that would equal the classes I had back in Texas, which was the first obstacle in my educational process.  Showing up to unfamiliar classrooms was embarrassing enough and the material in some classes sounded like it was being taught in a foreign language. 

Math has always been a challenge for me, but luckily I was enrolled in a class with an understanding teacher.  He would work problems on the board all period and then at then end he would write three problems on the board for our homework assignment.  I dutifully copied those problems down and as I left the classroom, I quietly told him that we hadn't covered that back in my old school.  He smiled and said for me to do my best and when I caught up, I could turn in the work.

Each day I would go home and open up my binder and stare at the three problems.  I would try many approaches to solve the problems, asked my mom for help ("Honey, I haven't been in school for over twenty years") and then return to class without solutions.  At the beginning of the class, students would turn in pages of homework, which only added to my frustration.  How could I be so dumb?  Everyone else understood how to do the work?  How did the students get pages of work out of three problems? 

By the end of the week, I gulped down my nervous stomach juices and turned to the girl next to me and asked, "How do you get so many pages of homework out of three problems?" 

To her credit, she didn't laugh, but merely said, "What are you talking about?  Three problems?  What three problems?"

I pointed to the board and said, "Those three problems from yesterday." 
On the board was written:
PP 114-115 A, B, F
PP 116-118 C, D, E
PP 119-120 F, G, H

She explained, "That's pages one hundred fourteen through page one hundred fifteen and you do all the A, B, F problems.  Then you go to pages one hundred sixteen through page one hundred eighteen and do all the C, D and E problems.  Finally, you do the same thing with the last pages."  From then on I understood the math a whole lot better.  You see where I went to school in Texas, my teacher used the abbreviation pgs. for pages and not PP. 

When I am stumped why someone doesn't understand something that is so clear to me, I try to remember how maybe they haven't had the same life experiences as me and they don't understand the shorthand I use. 


  1. Isn't it amazing that such a small glitch in communication can create such a huge problem?

    For example, when the nervous young priest was getting ready for his first sermon, he decided just a glass of water at the pulpit wasn't going to do the trick, so he put a glass of vodka there instead. He said, "I'm sorry, my Lord, but I need just a little extra courage to get through my first sermon". He was sure the Lord would understand.

    He started his sermon tentatively, took a few sips, then became braver and started enjoying giving his sermon. He breezed through his sermon, shaking his fist and putting all of his best authoritative effort forward. Before he knew it, he was finished. The congregation rose to their feet and exited.

    "That went well," he thought. He got over his fear and gave one incredible sermon to an audience that was so appreciative they gave him a standing ovation, he believed.

    When he later asked his superior how he did, the superior put his arm around the young priest's shoulder and said, "Well, my son, you were fearless out there, but before you give your next sermon, we need to get a few things straight:

    "It was the three wise men, not the three smartasses.

    "The trinity is known as the father, the son, and the holy spirit, not Big Daddy, junior, and the spook.

    "Her name is the Virgin Mary, not Mary the Cherry.

    "His name is Jesus Christ, not the late, great J.C.

    "And, finally, my son, there will be a taffy pull at St. Peter's next Sunday, NOT a peter pull at St. Taffy's!"

    See? It's all in the communication.

    And it helps if you do your math while sober.