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On Monday morning, Mr. G saunters into his F Band Advanced Algebra and Trig class in his usual khakis and blue button down shirt. Students scattered throughout three horizontal rows of scratched wooden desks in the relatively small class erupt in a gurgle of comments and questions upon seeing him in the doorway. The celebrity has arrived. Mr. G casually mingles with a handful of students as he distributes rumpled papers from his perfectly worn leather briefcase and prepares the Smartboard for the day’s lesson.
Mr. G is a pro on the Smartboard. He constantly amazes the class with his ability to magically generate graph paper and then drag his personal calculator screen across the board. He delicately writes and draws diagrams with the fat felt tipped pens as he taps the screen with ease; not once has he had any sort of malfunction. Cosine, sine, and tangent become mythical codes waiting to be cracked as they appear on the pearly white sheath that stands mounted proudly on the front wall. Mr. G knows the tricks of the trade and has the Smartboard down to a science. A Smartboard would never mess with Bobby (Greeny) G.
Within the first five minutes of class students swarm his desk hoping to capture a moment to speak with him before the lesson begins. The front row seats of the class are the coveted spots, yet the same students as always plop themselves in the front row. These front row inhabitants tend to be the most vocal during lessons, while the students in the remaining two rows sit relatively silently in their respective seats. In these next two minutes before the actual lesson begins, a few students yell out a series of “good morning’s” and “yo dude, sick game on friday” through the northern windows of the classroom to the seniors sitting on the grassy quad. Art students hanging up their sculptures from trees scattered around the grass look up toward the second story windows and engage in conversations with G’s students essentially recreating the acclaimed balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet.
The academic material covered in a math class doesn’t necessarily shape the class experience; the effectiveness of a class depends on the unique combination of the students and the teacher. This particular class, F Band, worships the ground Mr. G walks on, and a student would never disobey him. He is Albert Einstein, as far as F Band students are concerned.
Ten minutes later he starts up the computer with a printed background photograph of him and one of his old advisees dressed as a farmer. His one of a kind camaraderie indulges the students as one yells, “Write in rainbow letters,” and another follows, “Put that problem in daisy print.” Mr. G has a habit of standing on the left side of the Smart board, blocking the view for half the class, and today is no different. Without fail, a student yells: “Mr. G, you are doing it again. We can’t see!” He quickly smiles and affably shuffles to the other side of the room. It is this smile, whether bestowed upon those sitting in front of him or upon the farmer in the photograph that exudes the kindness he feels for his students. His goal is to make the class as enjoyable for his students as possible while still maintaining a structure conducive to learning mathematics.
Mr. G is one of the most adored math teachers at Fieldston, not only because of his acumen – he can complete any problem in his head – but because he loves teaching and working with students. He claims that he didn’t discover his passion for teaching until he stood in front of his own classroom. “Very early in my first year,” he recalls, “I knew that teaching was what I would love to do.” He constantly strives to please his students and ensure that they enjoy his class. He frequently tells his F Band students that they are “much more mellow than the other class.” He says that “every class has its own personality.”
Students in Mr. G’s F band class have overwhelmingly positive things to say about their experiences. “I love how easy going the class is,” says Mitch, a relatively short young man lacking an intimidating appearance, yet he is often one of the most vocal students in the class. “Personally, I'm not very good at math… but Mr. G's class has such an easy-going, relaxing environment, that it makes the subject seem a lot less intense and intimidating.”
Although many students tend to struggle with math and shy away from attempting to improve in the subject, Mr. G’s class inspires every student to work hard because math is not a chore in his class, it is a joy. As the 50-minute class period proceeds, students form study groups in the middle of class and work on problems together. Anne, Clarisse, Kayla, and Susan join as one, loudly debating whose answer is correct and then finally settling on yelling their question at Mr. G until he answers them. While one would imagine that these four girls do not work well together due to Anne’s loud screams, Sara’s quiet persona and constant look of confusion, Kayla’s obsession with finishing each problem quickly and efficiently, and Clarisse’s frustration with the loud classroom, they seem to finish their problem sets before any other group in the room. They are so eager to improve in math that they don’t allow anyone else to do the work for them. As Anne calls out an answer as she finishes a sample problem, before everyone else has a chance to finish, she risks being pelted with a pencil. A student would never want to let Mr. G down by performing badly on a test, as it would be an insult to his astounding teaching.
Mr. G’s notes are easily accessible to his students through his website, which also lists the homework assignments and any upcoming tests. He is extremely well organized, taking notes on the Smartboard and posting them on his website every day so that if a student didn’t take down all of the notes in class, he or she would have access to them online. Kayla conveys, “Overall, I enjoy the dynamic of Mr. G's class, and I think a lot of it has to do with the way in which he leads the class. His laugh also happens to be contagious.” His website is meticulous; the purple designs bordering the homepage reflect his eccentric personality but do not distract from the ornate notes listed in chronological order. There is a close coordination between the website and his class: one would never expect anything less from the Math Messiah.
Mr. G interacts casually with students and customizes myriad approaches to learning. Mitch says, “People are always getting up, walking around, eating in class, talking sports with G…he doesn't necessarily have a lesson planned; he just puts an example on the board and lets us work together to kind of figure it out ourselves at our own pace.” The class moves at a steady pace since he seems to understand that not every student can work at warp speed. When the clock reads 30 minutes into the period he switches gears and allows a flexible pace in which the quicker students can jump ahead to new problems, and those struggling or simply working at a slower pace can slow down and work one on one with him to catch up. How is it possible that as soon as Mr. G reads a problem, it instantly becomes clear? The only obvious answer is that he has magic teaching powers.
Mr. G doesn’t always collect homework from students daily. Students in other math classes assume they can get away without doing homework all semester long, but when Mr. G surprises students by randomly collecting assignments, he is handed a homework assignment from every single person in the class. On the off chance that someone does not in fact have their assignment they won’t be punished or kicked out of class to be sent to the bench, but simply told to bring it as soon as possible.
Anne, tends to struggle with math, particularly Trig, which has been the central focus of the first semester. When she answers a problem correctly in his class, a comforting grin spreads across Mr. G’s face as she bursts out in immense excitement. In the midst of the commotion, Anne jumps up and hugs Mr. G, gives him a high five, or creates a secret handshake just to celebrate her success. Many teachers would discourage a student from getting up in the middle of class and disrupting the lesson, but Mr. G engages in her celebration allowing the rest of the students to forget that he is their teacher, and not another student they can ‘chill with’ in the corridor.
On this particular day, Mr. G has finished the lesson plan early, and casually rattles off math jokes and turns the latter part of the 50-minute period into a comedy club. His comedic timing engages the entire room, as students yell out corny math jokes such as: “Why was Six afraid of Seven?” Mr. G then entertains the class by sharing his own jokes like: “What did the acorn say when he grew up? Gee, I'm a tree (geometry).” If anyone other than Mr. G were to repeat the same joke it would be passed off as being corny or stupid, but with his perfect delivery the entire class breaks down in a chorus of laughter. Mr. G finally announces “anyone who wants to leave is welcome to go since we won’t be doing anymore math today,” nobody moves. Clarisee and Kathy look at each other and question whether they should stay or go to the library and finish work; they settle on the obvious answer, to stay and hang out with Bobby.
There are specific aspects of Mr. G’s class that differentiate it from any other course taught at Fieldston. Only Mr. G would tolerate the constant sound of chomping coming from the right corner of the room as Anne munches on carrots or some sort of crumbling feast that has been stored in her backpack for days. On the first day of classes, most teachers hand out a list of guidelines, which usually includes a rule of “no eating in class.” Mr. G does not prevent students from eating in class, doodling, or doing anything that helps them concentrate in class. He claims that his class is not a progressive class because he maintains the structure of midterm and final exams, but his loose, yet constructive style reflects an extremely modern approach to teaching. When Anne was asked why she finds Mr. G’s class unique, she replied by saying, “Unique? I get to eat. That's pretty awesome.” Anne added: “Math has become one of the only classes I don't count down the minutes to leave. It's truly unexpected and amazing that math, usually a subject I hate, has become so wonderful for me.” Despite the groans led by Sid in the far right corner of the classroom as Mr. G introduces yet another method of graphing cotangent functions, he balances out the tedious work of sines, cosines, and tangents with his jokes and refreshing personality.
Mr. G’s charm and charisma win over even the most stubborn students. Despite his G-d-like capabilities, Fieldston students sometimes forget that Mr. G is a teacher and not just another friend with whom to joke on the quad. It is undeniable that the moment students step into classroom 532, they will experience a class unlike any other.
As the lesson of graphing cotangent equations comes to a close the senior calculus class comes barreling into the classroom, and as Mr. G realizes class is over he quietly mumbles, “It’s time to go, sooo… I’ll see you tomorrow.” All of a sudden there is a sense of panic as students yell, “When will the homework be posted? Can you please have it up before B Band?” Despite all of Mr. G’s efforts to keep everyone calm, there will always be a student who is able to disrupt the natural balance of the class. Rather than losing his cool, Mr. G replies simply and thoughtfully, putting this over-zealous student at ease. There are always a few stragglers who claim they are staying behind to clarify what will be on the upcoming test when, in fact, they just aren’t ready to leave Mr. G’s class and face the rest of the rest of their day, mundane in comparison. In those fifty minutes, time seems to stand still, suspended in mid air, while all things numerical reign supreme. Some may chalk it up to the fancy calculator or the advanced nature of trigonometry, but most attribute it to one factor, one person: Mr. G, Greeny, Bobby G.