September 3, 2019

It’s All Right, It’s Okay

My high school math teacher was an incredibly nice guy. And he was also my small school’s varsity football coach, so he spent plenty of time hearing the chants of cheerleaders during good games and bad. However, his desire to be kind and encouraging detracted from his ability to be a realistic cheerleader for his students.

I’m no slouch in math…up to a certain point. The content in Algebra 1 made absolute sense to me, and I loved Geometry. With a few exceptions, I grasped the content in Algebra 2. But after that – in what was called “Math IV” in my school, a combination of Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry? Not so much.

I’m a good memorizer so I could plug in numbers to the different formulas. But the theory behind it eluded me, so memory took me only so far. And I was a very unhealthy perfectionist at that time, petrified of seeing anything other than A’s on my report cards. Mr. Long – bless his heart – allowed me to come in during his prep-time for extra one-on-one help. And he tried. But I know now that my brain’s capacity for truly comprehending mathematical concepts ends somewhere near the end of Algebra 2. I have absolute peace about that now, too.

But I didn’t back then, and Mr. Long knew it. So – in his default nice-guy mode – he put A’s on my report cards for Math IV all year long, giving me credit for effort where my computational ability fell short.

I know he meant well. But the A’s gave me a false sense of security and made me think – despite knowing the truth deep down inside myself – that I’d do just fine in college Calculus. I didn’t. And getting a C in that class – which may have been a bit of a gift from that professor as well – threw me into an emotional tailspin that lasted a long time.

Hindsight is always 20/20. And it’s difficult to have the courage to shout the realistic cheer when it becomes clear the team won’t pull off a victory. But with his naturally kind demeanor, Mr. Long could have done it. If he’d awarded grades based on my actual comprehension of the content and explained where he saw me in that realm, it would have been hard to take. But because we had a relationship, he could have helped me come to terms with my mathematical limitations. That would have saved me from incredible angst later on and enabled me to realistically reconsider my post-secondary plans before wasting considerable time and money.

No one is good at everything. God has designed each of us to be a unique human being and has laid out a unique plan for each of our lives, and that means each of us will soar in some areas and flounder in others. We need cheerleaders in our lives to urge us on in our areas of strength and redirect us when we’re unnecessarily stuck in our weaknesses. In the context of relationship, don’t be afraid to shake your pompoms and call out, “It’s all right, it’s okay. Try something new another day!”


Photo Credit: ClipArtBarn

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