Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

Today in math class, they would be learning how to factor quadratic equations. Miss Gracie, called Mrs. G by her students, knew this because she had the lesson planned out meticulously across three-and-a-half sheets of college-ruled notebook paper, which sat neatly in a folder before her. She knew because, like with all her lessons, she had recited it in front of her dressing mirror last night, right before bed.

She glanced at the clock. Ten minutes left until class. Its tick, tick, tick was the only sound in the room.

She looked around the room. Nothing but the equation charts that she covered with long sheets of colored paper during tests (always to the dismay of the students) and Tu fui, ego eris. Latin. What you are, I was; what I am, you will be. She stared at it. She had written it out on a sheet of white cardstock and stuck it to the wall with blue tape on her first day. It seemed like a kind and encouraging quote, a reflection on how ideally, the student would someday become the master. Only yesterday did she learn that it was actually a phrase that had been written on tombstones.

Her students seemed not to notice the phrase. Nor did the administrator, who walked in one day without warning to see “how well you were teaching the material.” The administrator had eyes the color of sour apples, and a mouth that was puckered like she’d eaten a sour apple, and had told her that she couldn’t teach proofs because they a) weren’t in the curriculum and b) wouldn’t be on the state exams and were thus irrelevant, all in the disgruntled voice of someone who’d expected a sweet apple but gotten a sour one.

Irrelevant! Miss Gracie breathed in sharply. The word seemed to be everywhere. When she handed out her weekly quizzes, which no one was allowed to use calculators on, the students always complained. Miss, how is this relevant to our real lives? We can just use a calculator in real life. That’s what one student said. She said there wouldn’t always be calculators. But there’s one on my phone, he said.

The administrator would probably tell her to go ahead and let them use calculators, because they could on the state exams. The parents who phoned her every time progress reports went out probably would say the same. Never mind that the quizzes were composed of arithmetic questions like 25 x 80 and not higher algebra.

What were they studying today? Quadratic equations, and no one would be allowed to use calculators. They were very simple quadratic equations, really, that required logic and a basic sense of how numbers fit into each other, like (x + 2)(x -3) = x2 – x – 6. Everything in math can be boiled down into how numbers fit into each other, she’d told the class one day. That’s why I have you take these quizzes, to build up your number sense. They’d sat and stared at her without seeing her. In the back row, one student played with her phone under her desk.

Her quizzes had a reputation in the school. Before the administrator walked in and told her proofs were irrelevant, she had also sometimes included proofs on the quizzes. Nothing complicated, just questions like Prove that if n is an integer such that n2 is even, then n is even too. She’d even walked them through a very similar question the other day. It was all algebra. Why weren’t proofs relevant? But her quizzes were infamous, and on the day the administrator told her proofs were irrelevant, one student had cheered.

Tick, tick, tick. Five minutes until class began.

At this moment, she could have been studying for her doctorate in mathematics, probably bent double over a desk and sometimes straightening to sip a cup of hot tea, like she liked to in college. (She liked to think that she would have attended Columbia.) But she had chosen to take Mathematics in Higher Education instead of Applications of Higher Mathematics and go right to teaching before pursuing higher degrees because she had wanted to “make a difference.” Maybe she should have taken Teaching Elementary Mathematics instead. Maybe that would have made a difference.

It probably wouldn’t, her mind added.

She closed her eyes. Time seemed to crawl; she breathed in, a slow gasp, feeling her lungs expand. She’d never noticed how tight her ribs were before. Above her the clock tick, tick, ticked like dripping water, slower and slower. Tick, tick, drip. The dry air sandpapered her throat on the way down. She breathed out, exhaling too small an amount of air.

What were the teaching plans for today? She tried to remember without looking at her notes. Something about factorials… no, factoring. Factoring of quadratic equations. Factorials were years later, in calculus. So were proofs. Tick, drip. Yes, that was it. She needed to get herself together before her students arrived. They would come in here, and while she thought, they would hide their homework under their desks and copy off of each other. All while she tried to remember what her lesson plans were. What kind of teacher was she?

What would the administrator say when her class’s state exam scores came back in? Abysmal. She would look at her with those beady sour apple eyes. The parents would phone her, asking why she’d let their children fail.

Miss Gracie tried to think about quadratic equations, and (x + 2)(x -3) = x2 – x – 6. But all she could imagine were tombstones, little white tombstones in the shape of rectangles and narrow trapezoids and triangles in overgrown grass, tombstones all inscribed with “Tu fui, ego eris.” Dozens and dozens of tombstones, as far as the eye could see.

Written for a Sudden Fiction workshop in my Microfiction class.
Inspired by my own unfortunate (and fortunately brief) experiences with regular-level high school math classes.

---

Other works:
Bullet; BlackOld Friends - The visit happened suddenly, and to her complete nonsurprise.
Bullet; BlackShylia - They named after you / a goddess...
Add a Comment:
 

Daily Deviation

Given 2014-05-08
Deviant suggested by LiliWrites

A meditation on education: Lessons for Today by Falareste ( Featured by neurotype )
:iconwistfulnebulae:
WistfulNebulae Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This was a wonderful read! It rings so true. I have stayed friends with many of my high school teachers and they are all just so fed up with the system.  Administrators are literally stripping teachers of what they have once loved before, and you really captured that. Great job, and congratulation (belated, of course) for the daily deviation!
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you!

Yeah, my teachers were all incredible people, and I wouldn't be half the person I am without them. I was inspired to teach because of them, but seeing how stuff works in the public school system... ugh. I still think about teaching every so often, but I've decided that it'll have to be on an informal basis--volunteering and such. The rest of the time... I guess I'll just go over to this corner and calculate some insurance premiums. -shrug-
Reply
:iconteaphotography:
TeaPhotography Featured By Owner May 29, 2014  Professional General Artist
Oh my, how cool is this!! :clap:
Huge congrats!!! :hug:
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Student Writer
Thanks! ^^
Reply
:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on your well-deserved DD!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::iconlainloveplz::iconflyingheartsplz: :clap::clap::clap:
I’m very happy for you!!! :iconloveloveplz: :tighthug:
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 9, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you~ :heart:

(also, I've been around dA for a few years and had never known groups like dAWishingWell existed until recently, when I came across it on someone's page. I think it's an awesome concept!)
Reply
:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner May 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
My pleasure dear!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::iconsweethugplz::iconflyingheartsplz:

(Ohhh I'm glad to hear that!!! :love: I hope you join and start making wishes, as well as help granting other people's wishes too! :eager: ... some people only wish for llamas, watchers, feedback, etc., so anybody can contribute!!! :iconloveloveplz:)
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Aye, I suck at giving out feedback and being an active watcher (I tend to go away for long stretches and wind up missing people's work), but llamas... that I can help with!
Reply
:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner May 13, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:iconflyingheartsplz::love::iconflyingheartsplz:
Reply
:icontales-of-tao:
Tales-of-Tao Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Student General Artist
Goodness, the flow and narrative voice are both so stunning! I also only had to briefly relate to basic high school mathematics. I love this. You've earned yourself a watch. Congrats on the new DD!
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 9, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you for the support--for the watch, the favs, and especially for all of the lovely comments. ^^
Reply
:icontales-of-tao:
Tales-of-Tao Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2014  Student General Artist
You are so welcome! The pleasure was mine. :)
Reply
:iconlitwick-kindly:
Litwick-Kindly Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
Props to you, all the props to you. They really are a lot of props and you can sell them to twenty troupes and still have enough to be someone else every day for a lifetime.

Really though, I think this is quite spectacular
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 9, 2014  Student Writer
Whoo, props! Time to stage a musical!

Thanks for the comment and the watch. :heart:
Reply
:iconlitwick-kindly:
Litwick-Kindly Featured By Owner May 10, 2014
Of course, I'm here to enjoy the show with cat calls and applause as a good audience must provide. Well, I can throw the occasional tomato too if you get hungry.
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Toss in some lettuce and we have a salad... er, deal.
Reply
:iconlitwick-kindly:
Litwick-Kindly Featured By Owner May 11, 2014
I throw them in fencing scenes with some catalina dressing for visual effect
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
I hadn't thought about how to go about cutting the lettuce... or dressing it, for that matter. Genius!
Reply
:iconlitwick-kindly:
Litwick-Kindly Featured By Owner May 12, 2014
Are you telling me that you were considering leaving that salad undressed? I am appalled and offended at the licentiousness of this establishment. What kind of tease joint are you running here?
Reply
:iconfull-darkness:
Full-Darkness Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
wow so perfectly written and the flow is immaculate. you show depth and dimension in the character almost immediately, without going into frivolous details like i often do...
amazing
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 9, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you! About details and suchlike, I think a large part of it is the form of the piece--I'm actually pretty bad at describing physical detail, and microfiction's brevity (<1500 words) gives me a reason to duck out of describing them (though I'll have to come to terms with it at some point). The "frivolous details" can be quite handy if you're spending more time with a character. :)

Also, this is a rather random thing, but this story and author might interest you: Singing of Mount Abora by Theodora Goss. She was/still is a major influence and inspiration for me.
Reply
:iconaurora-celest:
aurora-celest Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
God, I love short perspective pieces like this. Wonderfully written and balanced. You managed to highlight the issues with American education along with the borderline-tearful frustration of a teacher, all while maintaining a narrative flow. It must've been hard to not have this develop into an angry rant. Fantastic work.
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you! Funny thing is, my issues often lie with being -too- quiet in my writing; I once wrote a story about a dystopia that was misinterpreted as a pretty nice place to live by all but one person in my workshop group. It's been over a year since then, though, so it's good to know that I've improved on my balance!
Reply
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
The whole "only study this for standardized testing" makes me sick. My sister has some of the same upper level HS teachers I had now, and the curricula have gone to shit because they're under so much pressure to perform. (Not that I was thrilled to spend post AP exam learning about hyperbolic sines, but well senioritis.)

So kudos for capturing that.
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Ooh yes, I remember both hyperbolic sines and senioritis... with varying degrees of fondness.

Yeah, in my school, there's a distinct divide between the regular-level classes and the Pre-AP/AP classes. The Pre-AP/AP classes were rigorous, but we would always wind up having to waste time "reviewing" for the standardized tests instead of prepping for the AP exam. This was despite the fact that everything taught in an AP class was three levels above anything on a standardized test, and anyone who could stay afloat in our AP classes could easily pass every standardized test while dangling upside down. (Our state isn't known for educational standards.)

The regular-level classes had it worse, though--it was essentially where all the kids who simply didn't care went. Classes essentially consisted of struggling through the curriculum half the time and breaking up fights/disciplining people the rest of the time. Unfortunately, we didn't have any sort of middle ground between regular and Pre-AP/AP classes, so that left kids who genuinely wanted to learn, but had trouble with the material, in a hard spot. It was either the toxic environment of regular, or struggling constantly to keep up in Pre-AP/AP. The teachers were upset about this situation, but could do nothing about it--on top of that, the administration wanted to make the school look good, so they made it very hard for kids to fail or drop out, which meant that the kids who didn't care could get away with their antics.

Anyway, I digress. Thank you for the praise and for the feature. :heart:
Reply
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
:lol: My sister's learning them now and it's just like...pbbblblblbbbbtbttt.

Oh huh, there's a ton of focus here on AP test material. The fun part, though, is that I had a few teachers - who are apparently still doing this - who will scare students shitless by suggesting the APs are a lot harder than they are, so we all walk out with 5s and also, for instance, with the list of all 44 presidents memorized.

Yeah, that's shit. I think I knew exactly one person who was in regular-level English. Elective-wise, though, we'd get a lot of grade whores in the honors level classes (5.0 instead of 4.0 for an A), and the regular level classes had people who actually gave a shit about the subject.

Sure!
Reply
:iconsavagefrog:
SavageFrog Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I had to google "hyperbolic sines"...I only know how to do the basic ones. :stare:
Reply
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I forgot how, just had to Google it myself :lol: But that 'cosh'/'sinh' took me straight back to hell.
Reply
:iconsavagefrog:
SavageFrog Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I know them as "cos", "sin" & "tan".
They only exist to troll us.
Reply
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
sohcahtoaaaaaaaa!
Reply
:iconsavagefrog:
SavageFrog Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
SOCATOA~

I had like a warzone flashback.
The warzone was Math class. XD
Reply
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
:lol: x equals negative b, plus or minus the squaaare rooooot....
Reply
:iconsavagefrog:
SavageFrog Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
NNNNUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUu
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconmchlsu:
mchlsu Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
This is a really great read, and it's made me feel incredibly sad and guilty... I was terrible at maths at school, and I still am piss poor at it, so I was one of those students who complained about not being allowed to use a calculator and about how I wouldn't need maths in the real world. 
I love the use of the Latin phrase, maybe I should get that on my tombstone. 

Congrats on the DD!!
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
I also complained about not being allowed to use calculators, and I'm a math major now... so the guilt is shared.

Of all the places, I first came across that quote in a video game (Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward), and it stuck. Though I made Miss Gracie's mistake of thinking that it was a positive quote at first, haha.

Thank you!
Reply
:iconayeaye12:
AyeAye12 Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Student Writer
Fantastic, and painfully sad :< But in a good way!

Definitely deserving of the DD :3
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
:hug: Thank you!
Reply
:icontrixynetex:
TrixyNetex Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
An extremely wonderful read.
Congrats on the DD :heart: 
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
It is much appreciated--thank you!
Reply
:iconinvader-zim42:
invader-zim42 Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
Very well written, and unfortunately true (I sympathize with the teachers on this one).  I especially like the irony of the Latin quote.
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Thanks! (I actually made the same mistake as Miss Gracie when I first came across it, hah. Thank goodness for Google.)
Reply
:iconmissdudette:
MissDudette Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
Wow...  Amazing work here. 
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you. ^^
Reply
:icondenisecroy:
DeniseCroy Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
So close to reality. And therefore so touching. And very well written. A wonderful job, my dear. 
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you. :heart:
Reply
:icondenisecroy:
DeniseCroy Featured By Owner May 12, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
<3
Reply
:iconbeltaneh:
Beltaneh Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
Congrats on your DD
It is a very interesting approach :)
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Much appreciated! :)
Reply
:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
When I was in junior year I took a class that introduced you to various careers in public education. Being literary minded, I chose to explore what it might be like to be an English teacher for middle schoolers. I thank that class for making sure I never destroyed the confidence a bunch of teenagers who couldn't figure out how to use commas. :lol: 

Well written, and an interesting statement about the problems with standardized testing. Congrats on your DD! :D 
Reply
:iconfalareste:
Falareste Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you. :) Teaching was a field I'd considered, as well--however, I was terrified of destroying a budding writer's confidence or forcing them to adopt my own style of writing (a fear that I still possess), and on top of that, kept drawing blanks whenever I tried to critique another writer's work. It felt like being asked to critique a mortar wall with a toothpick. (That doesn't make sense, but somehow, it feels right.) So I thought, if anything, I'd be a math teacher instead, but then I observed a number of things in education that I, to say the least, felt I wouldn't be able to tolerate. So no teaching for me.

Thank you again--for the support and the suggestion. :hug:
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:iconfalareste: More from Falareste


Featured in Collections

Literature - GoodRead by Axe-Cell

Writing by Alaalooe

Writings by MissDudette


More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
February 22, 2014
Submitted with
Sta.sh Writer
Link
Thumb

Stats

Views
3,236
Favourites
146 (who?)
Comments
59
×