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a good friend of mine teaches high school math. but he's not that math teacher. he's the math teacher who for class takes his kids out out to the track field and asks who in the class thinks they can run faster than him. he says this in a tone that reveals he doesn't think any of these young, lithe, athletic bodies can outrun his older, balding frame in a hundred yard dash. hands start energetically popping up. oftentimes they are the hands of the school's football or soccer or track stars and once names start getting called forward, the trash-talking begins. then they race and there are stop watches involved and after the results are in (and some students beat the math teacher but the math teacher also beats some students) the students have to figure out how they would have to stagger the runners at a starting line for them all to hit the finish line at the exact same moment. once these calculations are made, they set it up and run it again. this guy could have even taught me math.

anyway, my friend is that kind of math teacher.

my friend told me of a moment he just had on the first day of school this year. he eats lunch in his classroom and catches up on web and mail happenings. in time his students come to learn this and as the year progresses his more devout fans begin joining him for lunch. in his room he has a fridge and a microwave and a bunch of desks so it's as perfect a lunch haunt as is any cafeteria (assuming you bring your own food). as students appear and food prep begins, he manages the queue that forms at the microwave. he rotates the motley line of containers through the mill and when one is done he calls it out much like a short order cook might, making way for the next.

last year my friend had a student he called a-hudge. this was an abbreviated form of her name and when spoken came out sounding similar in tone and tenor to a marine bellowing a ten-hut with the end drawn out and accented. and in this lunchtime scenario when her daily meal of quaker instant oatmeal was ready, my friend would pull it from the microwave and bark out a deep, A-Hudge Up!

at the first lunch of this school year, my friend ate alone in his room. his new students have not yet discovered that they like him as much as they do nor have they learned that he eats in his microwave-equipped room every day or that they're more than welcome to eat with him. as he ate in this quiet classroom on this first day, he thought of a-hudge. he picked up his phone and thumbed out the phrase "a-hudge up!" and hit send. the words raced through the air, spanning states, descending to a tree-lined campus in the east and vibrated the phone of his former student while she was probably buying books or settling into a dorm room. minutes later my friend's own phone chattered on his desk. he picked it up, trained his eye on the screen and read, "... and the bitter taste in my mouth is not that of maple and brown sugar ... "

and that's my friend who is a math teacher.

AUG2009

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