On Math Education: JFK, the Beatles and Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

After my assignment at the high school I took on various short-term sub assignments. These seemed relatively straightforward compared to the difficulties I had been through. In fact, I was reluctant to start subbing at first, but after the first few times, I started to regain my confidence.

I had applied to various full time jobs for teachers and was waiting to hear. As the school year approached November and I was subbing more, the TV and the internet were full of discussions about the JFK assassination, which was approaching its 50 year anniversary. Like most people, I recall what I was doing at the infamous moment: I was taking a Spanish test. I remember girls in the class crying, and later, when passing in the hall, seeing the woodworking/drafting teacher outside his classroom, seemingly distant, whistling “Hail to the Chief ”.

I continued to sub, and by January, TV and the internet were focusing on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan. While Kennedy’s assassination is irrevocably linked in my mind to a Spanish test, the Beatles’ U.S. debut is linked to Mr. Dombey’s algebra class where I recall many discussions about the Beatles taking place. I can recall both the Kennedy assassination and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan with complete and unrelenting clarity.

By the third week in January, I was eating lunch during a sub assignment, and was at a point where I had accepted that my age was probably preventing me from being hired as a full time teacher. At that moment, my wife called me on the cell phone to tell me that the principal of the Lawrence Middle School was desperately trying to reach me, and that they had a long-term sub assignment for teaching math.