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The Maths teacher

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.”

Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?

I have almost never been a teacher’s pet. There was R who was the Music teacher’s pet because she could dance( call it reverse logic or what you will). There was A who was the physics teacher’s pet for no other reason I could see than that he was a boy. Then there were some who were the physical education teacher’s pet because they were members of the volleyball team. I had refused to be part of the volley ball team because I might have had to stay back after school for extra practice and so lost out to becoming my P. E teacher’s pet.

So I began my 9th grade with no hope of becoming any teacher’s pet; with a 13 year old mind, I had concluded that I was not intelligent enough or good looking enough or talented enough to be any teacher’s pet.

Enter Mr. R, a new Maths teacher. He had retired from the Army and his dressing and style were like a military person’s. Dressed to the T, with neatly pressed shirts, and trousers, he was the epitome of discipline. Strictness and he were close companions. His pet topics were the theorems of geometry, starting with the Pythagorus theorem – going on to tangential theories of circles and their corollaries, theories of algebra, of congruence and similarity and much more.

We had to learn not just the theorems but their proofs and if the theorems defied logic and could not be proved, we used reverse psychology or something similar to start with the end result of the theorem and going backwards from there. Suppose xxxxx were false, this and this would happen and we would go on to disprove ” this and this”, thus proving by reverse logic that our initial assumption was wrong, thus proving our theorem was right. Talk of mathematical confusion and we had it right there in our 9th grade.

Mr. R came to know that I had been a student at the school he came from previous to his appointment to this school and so he started noticing me. In addition, I was infamous for knowing my stuff but never scoring a perfect 10 in my Maths tests. So gradually his interest in me turned to a kind consideration and concern of why trying to prove I was a mathematical genius who had constantly been misunderstood, thus explaining my low scores in the subject.

Gradually I started understanding the concepts of Maths and learning how to tackle problems with ease and confidence. My scores naturally went up and so did my teacher’s pride in me. He had never shown any thing which would make me think that I was his pet but my classmates certainly thought so.

Later on, when I went on to complete my degree in Medicine, I was in correspondence with him through letters. And he called me on the night before my wedding to wish me good luck and his wishes are certainly with my marriage, as I like to believe.

He was transferred from my school a couple of years later and retuned to his home town to a life of retirement and tutoring students who needed a little fillip with mathematics.

Today Mr. R is no more. Our school facebook page mentioned that my Mathematics teacher has passed beyond that elusive curtain and never will he teach mathematics to students again.

But his legacy lives on as I teach my daughters their tables and their theorems, I am constantly reminded of how well the principles of mathematics were taught with precision and discipline to a 13 year old girl. At 45, most of what I learnt at that age, remains with me. Thank you Mr. R and hope to see you again, sometime, someplace.

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