I was a sophomore in high school, two weeks in. As a freshman I took Algebra I. I worked hard hard hard to get a C. While my friends all finished the homework in class and got to goof around, I worked hard at the teachers desk. For a C. By the end of the year I felt like I had made progress so I signed up for Algebra II in the fall.
Two weeks in. For two weeks homework problems were done on the board. I never got called up. Until I did. I went up front with about 4 other classmates and wrote out the problem assigned to me on the chalk board. I wrote the problem on the chalkboard. And then I just stood there waiting for a hole to open up beneath me. I was gaining strength to just sit down and when it came my turn I would simply say I don’t know.
Sheila was next to me at the board. She leaned over and whispered the answer, so I wrote it down and sat down. My back was to the class the whole time, and the teacher had a little glass middle room between his classroom and another classroom. I just took the position that nobody had been paying attention. Mr. D. came up to the front of the classroom and went through all the questions. When he got to mine, he simply talked through the problem and the answer. He didn’t single me out, he didn’t call on me.
After class I went straight to the guidance counselor and said that I needed to drop Algebra II. Her response? “That is fine. I didn’t know why you were taking it in the first place. Let’s choose another class.” We did.
Mr. D. said, “You gave it a good try. I’m sorry you won’t be in the class.”
My Mom said, “You made the right choice. I didn’t know why you were signed up for it in the first place. But wanted to support your decision.”
My friends said, “What a relief.”
What no one said the spring before, when I signed up for Algebra II was, “Amy, You worked so hard in Algebra I. Well done. You don’t need to put yourself through that with Algebra II.”
A couple things to note:
Sheila and Mr. D. will forever be saints to me. Sheila saved me, then never said anything about it ever again. Mr. D. surely had been watching, and created a learning environment that worked better by just working the problem on the board.
I am grateful.
What I find curious is that no one, no adult guide, had suggested to me that I should not take Algebra II. No blame here. But curiosity.
I think that we are hesitant to speak truth to one another. My own sense of Can Do was overplayed when I didn’t fail Algebra I. I didn’t have a good sense of perspective or what to do.
But had I not been part of the class for those two weeks, I would have missed a great moment of grace that has been with me my whole life.
You know what I say now to my clients? I’ll say, “I understand that choice. What is your long game, and what are alternatives to get there? I will support you in whatever decision you make.” I will, you know. We don’t know the best choices in life, often until we are walking that path. Then it comes clear that course correction needs to take place, or that we are up for it when we were unsure. But what we must have is people who support our process. Even if they think another way might be better. No “I told you so’s” need to be spoken when it goes awry. We just keep carrying on.
Guidance is a precious thing. Sheila’s actions were precious. Mr. D.’s professionalism makes me cry with gratitude.
Peace for your stories,