Fridays with geometry and a little A. A. Milne…

Occupations ClipartI don’t completely remember his face.  But I do recall his heart for his students…

Plain old everyday math had always been a bit beyond me.  Let alone junior high algebra. In a time when calculators were available but never, never allowed in class or for tests, I usually passed with a “B” but not without a hard run.  And – being a word-lover – I hated numbers. Downright loathed ’em. Now, it was — (ugh!) high school G.E.O.M.E.T.R.Y.   Loud sigh.

Thin, 35-ish, bearded, wearing specs and casually dressed… he sat on the edge of his desk and leaned in to talk to us like equals. From his first words, I had a strange feeling that if anyone could make me understand this course, he just might. He had a way of making problems seem simple. His cornball puns and jokes left us wincing even as we laughed.  And I began to relax.  I was doing well… and, dare I say… having fun.

Fridays were my favorite day in his class, for he scheduled something beyond the realm of any thinking mathematician for our last half hour. He read to us.  We were flabbergasted, snickered behind our books, gave each other dumbfounded looks that said — is this guy FOR REAL? Because it wasn’t just any ordinary book.  It was… of all things he could have chosen for us sophisticated teens… Winnie the Pooh.

Occupations ClipartAt first, it was just a time to relax at the end of the week… like having a sort of nap time when you could stop trying to cram in numbers and information and just take it in…or not. But before we all knew it, we were really listening…hearing more than a child’s story.  A lesson on life.  Friendship. Hope. On staying young at heart.  And putting first things first.

I’d never really read those books as a child.  Oh, I’d seen the Disney film or two. But now, I was hearing them read to me.  With feeling.  He didn’t have a British accent, but he could almost make me hear A.A. Milne’s voice in Christopher Robin and Pooh.  I drank in the rhythm of the words, the beauty of the simple (though, I was discovering, not simplistic) writing. And wondered about the man reading to us – a man of great number knowledge – yet… one who loved these written words. Hmm… Maybe not quite as eccentric as he’d led us to believe…

Then…without warning to us… everything crashed.  A six-week teacher’s strike, displacing all students to classes taught by rushed-in substitutes.  Some, I suspect now, who knew little-to-nothing of the subjects they were forced to teach, basically reducing school to babysitting for many of my classes. Geometry turned from understandable to hieroglyphics for me and I began…literally…to fail. When the strike finally ended, half our semester was over and I was left shaken with the thought that I might just end up with my first class “F.”

Occupations ClipartBut he was having none of that.  “I understand that many of you will need to catch up,” he told us, on his return, “and I will work with you as long as it takes.” Patiently, he taught us, went over and over the work, made allowances for our ineptitude.  Always making room for Milne on Fridays.  And in the end, he gave me a “C” – because, he said kindly (oh-so-like Christopher Robin to Pooh), I know you tried your best under the circumstances.

I was relieved, of course.  But, still a bit downhearted. The semester had started out with such promise.  I think he recognized my look, for he left me with a wondrous parting thought – and shining eyes – as he added… I think you would have excelled if things had been normal.

These days, I don’t remember much geometry.  I use calculators when I need to figure anything.  But I do remember the encouragement this man wrote on my life that semester, through his own words and through those of a wise ol’ bear and his friends.

It was the first and only time I found a light of understanding and hope in a math class… from a memorable teacher, fittingly named, Mr. Crossman.  And the joy of discovering what he knew so well… wisdom often comes when you give the brain a rest and let your heart soar…

 Have you ever found light or hope in an unexpected place, from an unexpected person?  

©  Pam Depoyan

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About Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

I love to hear your thoughts, even chat back and forth amongst comments.Won't you join the conversation? :) ..................................................................................................................... May my stories refresh you, like a whisper from our Father's Heart !
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6 Responses to Fridays with geometry and a little A. A. Milne…

  1. Diane says:

    How blessed you are to have had a teacher that left such a mark on your heart. I loved this post. It made me sigh and smile. I think I need to do more brain resting and heart soaring! Beautifully written!

  2. Thanks, Diane! My most favorite teacher was my high school English teacher (I wrote about her in my first post to this blog – took every class I could with her) – but this story about Mr. Crossman just stayed with me for obvious reasons. Winnie the Pooh and math… ha. Yes, I’m feeling the need for more heart soaring too 🙂

  3. Love it! Is he still alive? Have you tried to find him?

  4. Thanks! No, I haven’t…but I doubt I’d stand out in his memory. Just one of the kids… But my favorite teacher was my English teacher. I know she’s still living…should try to reach her.

    Thanks for stopping by for these and I hope you come again 🙂

  5. Ann Kroeker says:

    This is a gorgeous tribute to your geometry teacher, Mr. Crossman (also a lovely nod to the brilliant a.a. milne). I am so thankful for every teacher who takes the time to help students learn and even love learning. His patience and insight into human nature is so unusual, especially for one who loves the maths. Thank you for sharing this with the Community Writing project!

  6. Thanks, Ann. Yes, school can be hard on so many levels… a good teacher makes such a difference. I think that the fact that he was a math teacher with an interest in reading really impressed me too. Thanks for stopping by… Come again… 🙂

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