Dear Saul,

Are you any good with geometry? I hope to god you are, I’m gonna need a bit of help. It’s strange, the way life can give you a second chance or two.  It’s even stranger that those second chances can be a little… intimidating. Sure, you’d like a second shot, you wanna get back in the ring, throw at least one more punch. Then the weight of the task at hand can be a little bit of a reality shock. Things might be a little more jarring, a little bit bigger than anticipated, and honestly, it’s okay to feel a little intimidated at first, I’m sure most people would, and I’m no exception.  For instance, lemme give you a little backstory to my school.

I am, currently, shit at maths. Or math, however you wanna pronounce it. I somehow believed in second year that I could handle higher level math pretty well, and… well… the big fat ‘D’ on my Junior Certificate exam speaks volumes as to how that turned out.  So I took a year off, did something called Transition Year, which kinda was a non-exam year meant to prep you for the next major exam, the big one, the one that would decide whether colleges and universities would except you as a paragon of society, a useful, productive human (that’s what it sounds like to me, at least). The Leaving Certificate. I kinda forgot about my troubles in math, until nearing end of the year, I began to wonder if I would remain in higher, or drop down to ordinary, also called lower level.

Welp, I believe I’ve either dodged a bullet, or jumped in front of one, because, on my very first day of fifth year in secondary school (think second last year of high school), I’ve been put into higher level math. Because a second chance can be, and is, a bitch.

This, naturally, filled me with doubt. At this point, my drive to succeed in maths was pretty much gone, I needed to focus on the subjects I could actually pass. This sounds ridiculous, but higher maths at Leaving Cert level is hard. Really hard. And I barely made it past higher maths in third year. Naturally, I was worried, especially given that the new teacher I had was one I had never interacted with, never met in the corridors, and one I might not have felt comfortable being taught by.

This teacher, as it turns out, found me my drive. By inadvertently calling me dead weight.

After being sorted into our classes, each teacher gave their own prep talk for what they would do for the exam. Mine, as it turns out, had the same effect as a Drill Sergeant. That is to say, I’ll learn, whether I hate them or not. But a few of the remarks they made kinda stuck in my head, one of them being ‘I’m looking at the class now, and I can tell you now, there’s some dead weight here’, as well as ‘I can guarantee, by Monday, not all of you will still be in this class’.

Hmm

‘Okay, well, in the first period I’ve had her, she’s referred to the slackers and, looking at my own difficulty in maths, what I can only guess, me, as dead weight holding back others from learning, and she’s hinted at the class being cut down.

Well, it’s on now.’

This was pretty much, as silly as it is, my thought process. I mean, them telling me I should go down to lower is fine, but being kicked out when I’ve already, against the odds, made it into higher? Nuh-uh, nope, no way, it’s on like Donkey Kong, now.

I guess, at that point, something just snapped, a good snap, but a snap nonetheless. At this point, it was no longer about studying for an exam, it was no longer about points, and it was no longer about being dead weight. Now, it was about proof. Proof to myself that I can and will pass, and not just pass, but succeed. I needed to prove to myself that I could beat maths. No more laying back, no more worrying about exams, at this point, the only thing that mattered in maths, was the fact that I would beat it.

And for that, I thank you, drill sergeant maths teacher.  You helped me find my drive. Before this, I was apathetic, I didn’t know how it would go for me, and frankly, I didn’t care. Now, I’ve begun to realise what I’ve missed out on, what I could have done, and dammit I’m pissed. Now, I have a goal, a reason to do something about this. I’m not doing it for exams anymore. I;m doing it for me. Because I’m sure as hell not letting numbers on a page beat me anymore.

The buck, as they say, stops here.

Best wishes, and wish me luck,

Fiachra