Sunday, June 19, 2011

MATH: The Ruler Rules

            Now the paddle wasn't used by all teachers. I can't ever recall a woman teacher using the paddle. In 1961 there were a lot more men teachers than are currently in the profession. This might have had to do with the G.I. Bill that enabled so many soldiers from World War II and the Korean War to earn a college degree and move into the middle class. Characteristic of their generation, they never talked about the war, so how many of our teachers were veterans, I do not know
            I seldom got in trouble in math class, probably because the subject really challenged me. I remember my senior trigonometry class taught by Mr. Mifkovic. The class would begin with students putting homework problems on the board and explaining their solutions. Following that, Mr. Mifkovic would explain the concepts involved in that night’s homework. He would then give us time to start our homework. While we were thus occupied, Mr.Mifkovic went across the hallway to the faculty room, where he satisfied his craving for nicotine. When the door of the faculty room opened, so much smoke billowed out that you could have signaled the Sioux Indians in South Dakota. Yet, there was never a discipline problem in the classroom and,thus, we never saw the paddle. I don't even know if Mr. Mifkovic had one.
            Mr. Ferretti taught 10th grade geometry. He was a good teacher, a little intense maybe, very determined that we learn the subject matter. I sat in the second row from the window about four or five seats back. One day I discovered that Mr. Ferretti did not have a paddle. He used another weapon to take your measure – – – namely, a ruler.
            He used that ruler as a pointer, and that was its primary function until one day when I detonated him. I don't recall what I did, whether it was a wisecrack I made or a paper that I threw or a conversation I was having with someone else. Suddenly, he darted down the aisle, grabbed my right arm, told me to open my hand and commenced beating the hand with the ruler. By the time he finished the 50 whacks he administered, my hand was red and a little swollen. The pain was real, but bearable.
            Mr. Ferretti turned and walked up the aisle. By the time he got to the front seat, I said, "Mr. Ferretti!"
            He immediately stopped, turned and said, "Now what?"  His face was beet red.
            Holding out my left hand, I said, "Would you like to try the other hand?"
            The poor guy charged down the aisle, grabbed my left hand and began to beat the by jeepers out of it. It took a while before I could fold my fingers again.
            Phil Temple was a witness to that incident. In the hallway after class he gave that Phil Temple smile and said, "What was that all about?"  I didn't know then, and I don't know now. It was just another day of adventure at old Strong Vincent.

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