Failing a Math Test, 7th Grade
Failing a Math Test, 7th Grade
In 7th grade I thought the math class I was placed in was too easy. I had the grades to back that up, I was excelling. I mentioned it to my mother, who must have brought it to someone's attention. Looking back I cringe thinking about her "pulling strings because of her special little boy" or whatever, but I was 11-years-old and I was bored. I had no friends in the more advanced class, it wasn't like I was trying to fit into a cooler social structure.

I showed up to my English class one day, probably within the first month or two of the school year, and Mr. T (god I miss that guy, he deserves his own memorial here if I haven't done it already) handed me a transfer slip, showing that my English and math classes had been flipped to bump me into the advanced math class.

Things probably went well at first, I did my homework and kept up in class. But I hadn't formed study habits yet and I failed one of the first tests I took in the class. Something like a 60%, where 70% or higher was passing.

It was one of those situations where many students in the class failed, and with it being the American school system, the students must not be allowed to feel like they failed, so let's give them a "re-take" in a couple weeks.

It wasn't the first time in my life I failed a test, but I wasn't used to it. I feel like it must have started bleeding into my extracurriculars, maybe I was sad at karate class (really mixing in every odd element of my youth, here) and someone asked me what was wrong. But that was enough for the person in charge of the dojo to volunteer her teenage daughter Danni, one of the head instructors, to be my math tutor up until the re-take. I had some private karate lessons with Danni that I needed to use, and she said tutoring could count towards them.

We had a couple of sessions and I retook the test. I did marginally better, 74% or so, but still passing. Clearly I had no better understanding of the material but managed to get lucky enough to pass.

The worst part of all of this wasn't the failing and then failing to improve, it was showing back up at the karate dojo and feeling like I needed to be grateful to Danni, and proud of the help she gave me, despite my mediocre performance. Obviously it wasn't her tutoring that caused me to suck, what I'm saying is that I didn't want her to feel like her tutoring sucked. It honestly might have sucked, but it wouldn't have mattered when I was grasping the math so poorly.

I showed up to the dojo while she was chatting next to another head instructor, Matt, a sarcastic guy in his 20s who enjoyed being a hard-ass to pre-teens. I said something like, "I passed!!...I got a 74!..." while forcing a smile.

Matt snorted and Danni smacked him in the chest, then she returned her focus to me to fake a congratulation. One of those moments that adults think a kid won't pick up on, but without genuine pride there was really nothing to blind me to their complete awareness of my mediocrity.

Worse, I continued taking karate there until I graduated high school, and that one moment made Matt believe I was an idiot in remedial classes, failing tests weekly. I wasn't. Really. I did great. Please, you have to believe me. I got a 5 on my AP Calculus test. Ok, it was AB Calc, not the more advanced BC Calc unit, please don't judge me, a 5 is a 5! Please!!

The past couple of years I've been letting these memories float through my head and then leave me. As I'm remembering each one the thought occurs to me that this might be the last time it comes to the surface, and I just make my peace with forgetting. I can't remember what it was that I remembered, so who's to say it's not gone from my brain forever?


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