Monday, September 26, 2011


Senior picture (1959)
When I was a senior in high school I had a terrific Calculus teacher who taught me more about math than all the math teachers I have ever had.   

Mr. Mattheis was fairly short and built himself a riser on which to stand while teachingt a lesson.  This made him seem a little strange to most students, but not to me.  When we arrived in class the lesson was already on the board and he would take a long wooden pointer to draw attention to the part of the lesson he was discussing.

Being slight of stature didn’t keep Mr. Mattheis from maintaining discipline in his class.  No, I don’t think it was because he wielded a long stick; it was because he played a game he called base ball.  He was fair, never lost his temper, or raised his voice.  He would just call out strikes whenever a student’s behavior went over the line.  On strike three the student would automatically advance to the principal’s office and be assigned detention.

I loved to talk in class (oh, lets face it, I loved to talk, period) and one day I reached the ultimate third strike.  While in detention I wrote Mr. Mattheis this poem, which he framed and kept on his wall until he retired, many years later.

Standing on your pedestal, so wise, so tall, so straight, 
          On that lovely pedestal made of an orange crate.
Standing there so wisely with a stick cluched in your hand,
          Like a stone director about to strike, up the band.

What’s this you’re looking my way and I smile a sheepish smile,
          I wasn’t talking very long, just for a little while.
You slowly turn and point an accusing finger at me,
          And calmly say with a clear sweet voice, st-r-i-k-e  three. 

I slowly rise from my usual place,
          Slowly rise with a dismal face,
I began to argue that I was not,
          Then to the office I did trot.

Oh wise and wondrous world what fate have you bestowed on me,
To be ruled (in this class) by dictatorship and not democracy.
By the way I received an A in his class.     kt 8/2011


  1. You had a math teacher called Mr. MATTH-eis? I would have loved that.

  2. I think that it is pretty neat to have Math with Mr. Matth :) Cute Poem and you were probably one of his favs - that's why he kept the poem. Is he still around? I ran into my adored history teacher about 6 years ago and he remembered me, he called me by name - I was shocked and it was great to be remembered. Have a good day KT - cheers

  3. Great poem. Most of my high school teachers were duds! (not dudes, duds)
    I was talking in study hall with my BFF and we got sent to the office (after many warnings). The office told us we could be kicked out of school (we were 16) or we could have our parents bring us to school tomorrow and we would all have a 'discussion'. Well, in those days you NEVER involved your parents - the punishment at home was always worse than at school. (I didn't realize this was a pretty serious punishment for just talking but back then you never questioned anyone older than you). I later found out they were just making an example of us. Anyway, I could quit school, my parents were sending me to college some day and I couldn't bring them in for two reasons: they both worked and for them to take a day off is the equivalent of a death in the family - it just didn't happen! So what to do?? I told the principal I'd do anything to correct my behavior. So he told me to go to every teacher in the building and tell them what happened and to apologize. Then I was to ask if they would vote to let me stay in school. The vote would determine my "existence" of my high school education. Some teachers were reluctant to vote for me to stay but finally agreed. I was sweating bullets. I missed a whole day of classes and lost respect for myself. I was humiliated but I was certainly a better student from then on (graduated 3rd in the class!!)

  4. That was a lovely poem for your teacher. I'll bet he was flattered. I'm still amazed you learned calculus...numbers always eluded me. It's like Chinese. :)

  5. Such a fun poem! I LOVE it :) That's funny to because today I wrote a post about going to the principal's office LOL!

    That picture is fun--you're gorgeous

  6. You look so mature and beautiful in that photo! Very nice poem, what a fun story. I didn't know you were such a brain! I was very good in math, but dropped out of calculus because it made no sense to me. Maybe I had the wrong teacher!

  7. Math was one of my LEAST favorite subjects. I saw a math problem with an answer I liked this morning. I think it was in something called "Smartass answers to teachers' questions". There was a non-equilateral (scalene?) triangle with an X on one side. The question was, "Where is the X?" The student had drawn a circle around it & wrote, "It's right here!"

    You didn't respond to my email--do you want to be a DUCKY?

  8. Ahhhh I love your poem! Hope your dad is feeling better!

  9. haha, I just LOVE the poem! ;D what a fun teacher you had. =]

  10. I'm with Laila agreeing that I could never figure out calculus! Congrats on being the teacher's unlikely pet!

  11. I loved your poem and apparently Mr. Math enjoyed it long after your third strike!

    God bless ya and have a fantastic weekend!!!

  12. You were beautiful, Karen! And quite obviously a brainy one as well! Loved this story. I hope things are OK your end? Been thinking about you a lot, knowing that what you are dealing with is tough and heart wrenching for you. Take care. Big hug xoxo

  13. I love it! Thanks for letting me know about your dad. No worries my friend I'll be there whenever your get back. Big hugs to you and know you are loved.