White Board Problems


This semester, I’m taking Physics 2 and it’s chalked full of those people who get A’s in classes like organic chemistry and cellular biology. You know, the ones who sit outside the classroom before class and talk about how easy the exam you almost just failed was. I’m not saying they do it to taunt me but sometimes it feels that way.

During class the professor allows people to come up to the board and solve equations to get extra credit for our exams. But sometimes when a student starts writing the wrong answer a few of those A’s all start correcting them at once. I don’t like feeling dumb and I especially don’t like it when I think other people think I am dumb. So, I’ve never gone up to the board.

In class today I watched the back of the professor’s combed white hair as he wrote a problem out of the board. I had the answer written in my notes and tapped it softly with my pencil when he turned to face the class. His glasses sat lightly on his nose and I could see his socks through the holes in his sandals. How could a man who looked so nonthreatening be so intimidating?

“Who would like to come up to the board and earn five points extra credit?” he asked in his thick Russian accent.

Because I didn’t want my first blog to be about how I failed  I raised my hand. But not the jumping out of your seat, “Pick me! Pick me!” wave. No, no. I raised it just enough to where you might think I was about to rest my face against it or casually brush hair out of my face. If he didn’t call on me than technically I wouldn’t be failing, right?

“Uhhh,” he scanned the hopeful faces of the A’s while I sent up a litany of “Not me, not me, not me, please not me.”

“That young lady over there,” he pointed right at me.

I didn’t breathe as I walked down the aisle trying not to trip over backpacks on my way to the front. I don’t think I really realized I had left my seat until I was standing in front of him trying to take the marker with my shaking hand.

“I think you are sufficiently tall enough to work up there,” he said pointing to a spot high up on the board.  At 5’4 ½” I had to assume that was a compliment.

I filled out the equation, my chest constricting as I thought of the other students watching me. I wondered if they were comparing themselves to me. I don’t want them to. I don’t want to come up short even if it is only in my head.

I turned to face him when I finished, I couldn’t look at the other students faces as he asked the class if I was right.

Puke. I didn’t do it but I was tempted.

“She is correct,” he turned and smiled at me, “nicely done.”

I returned it with a half-hearted smile and practically ran back to my seat. My face beat red and palms sweaty. I kept my head ducked at my paper but couldn’t read any of the words for a solid minute.

Once I was able to calm down I became absurdly proud of myself. I smiled and couldn’t help but think “Five points to Gryffindor” (Yes, I am in Gryffindor. Be jealous).  It didn’t matter that what I had just accomplished almost everyone in the room had done multiple times. It was a big step for me and I am proud of it, especially since there wasn’t any fainting or vomit.

Tell me about a fear of yours, or challenge me to something new in the comments or shoot me an email.


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