A blog by Lori Lyons

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Solve for x


Since being laid off from my job as an erstwhile news and sports reporter/overqualified clerk for The (some) Times-Picayune roughly eight months ago, I have pondered my future.

According to those who employed me for 26 years, it isn't very bright. The newspaper business is dying, they said. The digital age is destroying it, they said. And I can't keep up, they said.

Or else I'm too old.

And there aren't very many other games in town.

So I've had to take stock. Consider my options. It may be time to change professions.  There is a Dollar General across the street from my house. A deli next door. A Subway around the corner.  I did consider going into the funeral business. I mean, they'll never be put out of business. Right?

The truth is, a part of my heart has always wanted to teach. From the time I was a little girl who played school with my grandparents in their kitchen, I was drawn to teaching.  I pretended to be my own elementary school teachers -- well, some of them.  I imagined my classroom with bright bulletin boards. I imagined the bright faces of my students. Later I imagined a book-lined office in a college hall.

Although I always wanted to be a writer  -- a journalist -- in the back of my mind I also wanted to teach. So, after switching my major from Communications to English, I minored in Secondary Education.  The only thing I didn't do was student teach and take the old NTE exam.

I should have.

Because now, if I want to teach (and I really, really do), I have to pass the Praxis exam.

And I can't.

No. Seriously. I mean I really can't.

Oh. I breezed through the English and writing portions with no problems, getting my required 175 (plus) on the first try. But the math is another story entirely.

On my first try, I got a 173 -- just two points shy of the requirement. One more good guess and I might have made it. I actually felt pretty good about it. I mean, I knew there were some that I got right. I'm not a total idiot. But some of the questions were completely foreign to me.

 I had to wait 30 days to try again. In the mean time, my husband, The Coach, The Special Education Teacher/Coach, and my 12-year-old daughter tutored me. Mostly, they just laughed at me and my inability to solve for x. Or y. Or z. Or just about anything else for that matter.                                                                                                       \
 I just can't do it. I look at the graphs, the charts, the x's and the y's, and it might as well be written in Russian. (I didn't say Greek because I actually took two semesters of Greek and can read it a little.)  I just can't wrap my brain around math. It makes no sense.

I mean I can add (a little). And substract (some). I can even multiply and divide.  I have been figuring out yards per carry, batting averages and time of possession for two decades. But when somebody asks me what time Train A traveling at 50 miles per hour and Train B traveling at 70 miles per hour are going to meet, I ask, "What time is deadline?"

And ask for Cool Whip if you offer me "pi."

And yet, the Powers That Be at The Times-Picayune put me in charge of the cash drawer in the River Parishes Bureau. Sort of explains why now they are The Sometimes Picayune. But I digress.

This is nothing new.   I started to struggle in math in elementary school. My mom got me a tutor in junior high.  I still failed Algebra I. And II.  Thank God there were no LEAP tests in my day or I might still be in the sixth grade.  I did have to take the ACT, of course. I scored a 34 in English! And a 13 in Math. Thankfully,  I only had to take one college math course, and I think the professor gave me the D I got.

I had told my husband these stories, and he certainly knew I was mathematically challenged. It's why he took over the checkbook long ago. But he really had no idea of the depth and breadth of my problem until we sat together at our dining room table with the Praxis book and the practice tests. I won't try to recreate the conversations here. I'll just tell you that, on more than one occasion, he gave me that look that says, "Seriously?"


And on my second attempt, I got a 169. Yes, I went backwards. And I knew it even before I hit the "report scores" button.

But, apparently, there are Powers That Be who think I can't teach young children how to punctuate and capitalize their sentences unless I can find x and y. So I must try again for that elusive 175. And again. And perhaps again.

But there is hope. Today my husband came home and told me that he has found me a tutor, one who (I hope) will not give me "that look" or laugh at me when I can't find the x. That's probably a good thing, otherwise the Coach might become one.



  1. Lori:

    I want your self esteem to flourish, so here goes....

    I love math, numbers and used to play with numbers in my head.

    But, ask me to write a perfectly correct error free sentence, or hell, diagram a sentence, forget it! It took me years to keep adverbs and adjectives straight in my mind. Want me to write a thesis or even a paragraph, I'd rather be tortured with a hot poker. (ok maybe not that bad but i will politely say no thanks)

    But, i can and will balance your checkbook, maybe even try to do your taxes (if not too complicated) or figure out sales tax for you on that large purchase.

    Thank Heavens you are a great writer for I have enjoyed your blogs!! Laughed, sighed, cried and remembered the days at THS with you.

    Chin up, girlie, you will be ok.


    PS do not solve for x or o... these are good luck hugs for you....

  2. I truly believe it's one or the other. Either you like words, or math -- you can't have both. Thanks, Jane. Hope you didn't have to sit next to me in Algebra back in the day!