Friday, December 10, 2010

How To Flunk Math (Or A Frustrated Artist in Ninth Grade)

    I’m not really sure how I got out of high school.  I’m pretty sure my F’s in math, rate right up there with my speeding tickets --- 13 or so, by my count.  Except for a very caring Biology teacher named Helen Martin, and a double secret bribe with an unnamed coach who traded me a C+ for a pencil knockoff of a Norman Rockwell painting for his mother, I might still be at Anderson High School in Austin, Texas.
© Norman Rockwell
     I’ve told you of whiling away the school day in Amada Peña’s art class.  What you don’t know is that I skipped several math classes and used my time a bit more wisely in Peña’s room.  Here’s how it’s done.
     The semester was two 6-week blocks with progress notes sent at the halfway point of each block, or the third week of each semester.  I quite abruptly realized on the second or third day of Algebra One…..I’m outmatched!
     Solution!  Head down to Peña’s class and get some real work done.  I tell Peña that I don’t have a class that period and he gives me the OK to work on my drawings.  Phase One is complete.
     Phase Two involves checking the mailbox around 2 weeks and 3 days for incoming trouble, in the form of a progress report.  My recollection is that Wednesday was the day they usually arrived.  My goal was to snag the note, forge my father’s signature (which to this day is still passable for his) and return the note to the teacher’s box unseen.  My hope is she will think I’ve dropped the course.
     The problem is that this isn’t college and you can’t run this scam to any kind of completion.  Not a satisfactory one anyway.  But when you’re a freshman, your future is bleak anyway.  I realize that I’m art material and that I won’t be in the short line for NASA, because I’m sure that NASA requires Algebra 1 and 2 for the brainy stuff.  Even a freshman knows his limitations.  Algebra = Limitation.  Art, on the other hand, = “Sky’s the Limit”!
     As you may well surmise, my plan did catch up with me and my parents made a heroic try at solving my inabilities.  I remember family friend tutors, and paid tutors, and afterschool tutors, and guess what?  I can’t do friggin’ math!
     In the short term (two 6-week semesters) my plan worked like a charm.  In the larger perspective, well, I got hammered.  I was grounded from bird hunting, yelled at by Peña, and received two F’s for my trouble.  The upside, however, was that I ended up with one badass pencil drawing.


  1. How funny, I swear we must be brothers of different mothers. Your story is hauntingly familiar. I could probably have signed my parents checks. But I had the added problem that my mother worked in the office at Reagan HS so that made things a bit interesting.

  2. When I worked at Farmers Insurance in the 90's, I became good friends with a girl whose mother was the secretary in the office at Anderson HS. Her mother definitely recognized me from my many visits to the office!