Thursday, January 24, 2008

Poets are to mathematicians as...

I teach at several schools in the Bay Area (current count: three) and as an adjunct faculty member, I usually share office space with other folks in the same situation. At the digital arts school in Emeryville, I am the only math teacher, so my officemates teach other subjects in the general education curriculum. Last week, I was talking to one of the English teachers. (Note: talking among teachers would usually be called commiserating if the conservation were held between normal people.) It was her turn to complain, and my turn to sympathize.

"You know, when I go to a party, and I'm talking to otherwise educated people, it's perfectly acceptable for them to say 'You know, I just don't get poetry.' Suddenly, that's the end of the conversation. Poetry is off limits."

I smiled and nodded, with a little look in my eye which she caught. "You teach math, though. I guess you get that kind of stuff, too."

"Yeah. If it comes up that I teach math, I often get 'Everything was okay until (fill in the blank)'. 'Everything was fine until trigonometry.' 'I was okay until long division.' 'Everything was great until differential equations.' Nearly everybody had that last math class they hated."

She nodded sympathetically. I asked, "Does anyone ever tell you they have 'poetry anxiety' or 'poetry-phobia'?" She smiled and said no. "Well, there's the difference between teaching poetry and teaching math right there."

Note: while I created the poet lolz above, I actually have no animus towards Robert Frost. It was my dear friend Mina who first pointed out to me that many of Frost's poems can be sung to the tune of Hernando's Hideaway. You can sing along in front of your computer right now if you wish.

Whose woods... are these?... I think I know!
His house... is in... the village though!
He will... not see... me stopping here!
To watch... his woods fill up with sno-whoa-whoa!

Now playing: Fred Astaire - Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
via FoxyTunes


dguzman said...

I'm SO glad I don't know that song.

However, hearing from one of my idiot college profs that all of Dickinson's poetry can be sung to "The Yellow Rose of Texas" didn't ruin her for me--but then, I'm stubborn like that. I likes me poetry.

I hear ya on the pains of teaching math because of the whole math anxiety thing. But grading tons of essays is also tough to deal with--trust me on that. I guess all teachers have their crosses to bear, right?

CDP said...

I admire anyone who teaches, from kindergarten to adult students. I like poetry, too. And while I appreciate math much more than I once did, I'm glad I don't have to study it anymore.

Padre Mickey said...

Ya know what? I don't get poems about math.
That kills it for me.
And Haiku, 'cuz ya gotta count syllables.

Padre Mickey said...

Oh, and at Camp we use to sing the Doxology to Hernando's Hideaway.

Matty Boy said...

dg, I'm sure you know Hernando's Hideaway. For most people, there are only two tango songs they know. One of them is Hernando's Hideaway and the other one isn't.