18) Did Your Teachers Make You Feel Fear of Math was Your Fault?

Academic Foundation – MIA

In the last post you read why I was the envy of my neighborhood during the winter of 1967. In this post you will read about why my performance in school was so dismal.

In spite of bouncing around for much of my early years as a boy, my self-confidence was pretty good. Except for math, which completely intimidated me. I recall one geometry teacher telling me in front of the whole class something like, “Oliver, pay attention.” “Even when you ARE paying attention, you seem to struggle.” This was devastating to my self-confidence. In my heart, I knew he was right.

What is clear now, is that I lacked the focus, discipline and persistence necessary to succeed in the classroom. Brilliant kids could study at the last-minute and do well in school. I wasn’t in their league. Bright and mentally agile, sure. But I didn’t work hard enough because I had this idea that once I moved to California, the good life would be mine for the taking!

Thin Veneer of Self-Confidence Hid My Insecurities

At age 18, girls were really noticing  me. I was very active in swimming, cycling and arm-wrestling with my  step Dad, Jim. I have always liked meeting new people. On my physical energy alone, I was usually able to make a quick, favorable impression. All of this, I’m afraid, was only a shell. What I mean is, at 18, I had no academic, community, religious or social foundation from which to find a direction there in Minnesota. I was restless and eager to leave.

Did you leave home to live in California?

Next: The Beginning of My 16 Year College Odyssey

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