Wednesday, June 17, 2009


On the third day I arrive just as class is starting and have to sit in the back. In the back there is whispered mutiny as Amine whizzes through new material for the first half hour. I don't say anything--just trying to keep one eye on the board and one in the book to see what he's just repeating from the book and what I'm not going to find anywhere else. I'm frustrated and it is somewhat satisfying to hear the mild explatives from the row behind me. Eventually Amine gets to two class examples, and using a similar problem in the book as a guide for the steps, I correctly complete the two problems.

Amine circulates and makes it to my back corner of the room. He says, "Good job!" and moves on. I don't say anything, but I put that "Good Job" in my back pocket to spend on the homework.

Funny, I don't FEEL 40 (turning 41 in less than a month) in the class. I feel at times confused, hopeful, relived, satisfied, and angry (I'm an emotional girl), but I don't feel two decades older than the other students (or Amine for that matter). Only when I walk into the classroom and walk out of it do I have a flash of self-consciousness. I wonder where the fitness center is and if I'll EVER have time to exercise. And I remember why I took up drinking coffee in college even though it didn't taste all that great--8 am classes and EVERYONE else drinking the stuff. It's a potent mix.

So after Calculus is Matrices again--and there's a long break again--Amine lets us out early again and since the two classrooms are so close--opposite sides of the same floor in the same building--that leaves me with time to kill again.

I text Chris. Then the compassionate service coordinator calls and I help her get a telephone number. I do more paper blogging.

The instructor, gosh, what's his name . . . Allan. Allan from Scranton. Anyway, Allan looks and sounds for all the world like a younger version of my youngest brother, Alex. This is Alex, maybe 10 years ago, a little more shy--with a trim blond mustache. He wears the button-down plaid shirts that you can find everywhere now. Chris has some for his job and Max wears some to school. So Allan arrives and starts writing notes on the board before class begins. He paces. Writes some more.

A boy arrives and sits down directly next to me. He has no book and no notebook. What he has is the crossword puzzle page of USA Today. A pretty blond girl sits down next to him on his other side. He smells, predictably, of Coffee, but not cigarettes. Throughout the entire class he works the crossword puzzle, takes no notes, but participates completely in the dialogue of the class.

One thing I notice, if it's possible to draw distinctions at this point, is that the Matrices class--either in temperament or in class size--is much more involved. When Allan asks a question, he usually gets more than one response. When we're confused, we don't sit and stew (oh we do, back in Calculus, we stew), but we raise our hand and ask for clarification.

I think the class size is a large part of it. Also, I think the students in Matrices/Linear Algebra are there mostly for their major and Calculus I--well, at Penn State, it would see that most of the undergrads have to take Calculus I.

By the end of today's class it dawns on me that I probably have this backwards. Matrices/Linear Algebra is going to be do-able. It's Calculus I that will be the proving ground. This is, frankly, a bitter pill for me to swallow. A big FAT slice of humble pie. I took Calculus in highschool and got an A. I took it as a freshman at OWU and hardly tried--and got a B. (I took Statistics, too, put more effort into it, got an A). It is TIME that has stripped away the ease of the class for me. What trips me up over and over with the problems is NOT the material in the book or the material from the lecture but the assumed knowledge of algebra II/trig behind it. I forget for a moment what 3^-1 means. I figure it out, but I am not SURE I really have it. I sit there with my pencil hovering over my paper, not wanting to write it incorrectly. Amine shows up at my elbow and I tentively write my guess. He says, "That's right," approvingly and I am so reassured.

But it frightens me--the moth-eaten holes in my memory of how to do math--and I know if there are too many holes, that I'm in big trouble.

I walk back to the law office this morning feeling uneasy. I have a LOT of calculus due the next morning and new Matrices assigned and new EdPsych assigned and I've had the work due for my next Grammar (work) assignment for five days now and still haven't even printed it out to look at it. I think it's due Monday.

I get home by 4pm and I work on Calculus until it's time to go out to eat with Gaye's sister and brother-in-law. When we get home from dinner (a very nice dinner at Mad Mex with the relatives) I work on the rest of Calculus for another three hours. Then we go to bed. I don't touch the Matrices or EdPych stuff. My brain is fried.

I go to bed anxious. 2 mg of lorazepam and I still take 45 minutes to fall asleep.

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