At exactly eight o’clock Mr. BG, our high school final year Math teacher walked into the class. We watched him go through his routine. You know the one of removing his jacket and hanging it neatly over the back of his chair, the wiping of the dust, which was never there, the selecting of a new piece of chalk and breaking it precisely into two equal pieces then to the black board. It never changed did it.
This morning was that Algebra lesson we recall so well. Mr. BG wrote an equation on the board with its resolution. The result; therefore 1 = 2.
“Copy this into your work books and don’t you ever forget it,” were the first words he spoke that morning. Well out came the work books and the class went to work copying it.
I stared at the board and knew something was wrong. One apple can never equal two apples. I always visualized Math in a practical way, equating everything to the real word. Then it struck me. On line four he had introduced a non-Math assumption into the resolution which naturally led to the incorrect answer. No one ever questioned Mr. BG. What to do? Standing, I attracted his attention.
“What is it Reyneke?”
“Sir, you are wrong, one can never be equal to two. You’ve made an incorrect assumption on line four.”
“What!” was his reply and I thought well here I go outside. But as you recall that morning was different. I suddenly felt elated that I could challenge things that were incorrect and question those presenting them.
“Reyneke, sit down. The rest of you morons, stand. I cannot believe that you lot will copy anything I write on the board. Catch a wake-up! This is Math not poetry where who the hell knows what the guy was thinking.” Clearly he disliked poetry and statements like this turned many students away from him and his approach of “think logically and be someone”.
From that day on you and I went on to excel in Math, always a competition between us. Do you know, Mr. BG remains my mentor to this day. That day he awoke a special dormant feeling in me, one of constructive questioning of my world and all in it. I’m glad of having the privilege of knowing him both as a teacher and athletics, rugby, and bowls coach.
An excerpt from “Reminiscing with an Old Friend”