Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Swedish Teacher in Maryland

A middle-school class files into the Annapolis Concert Hall and a hush falls over them. But not for long. They are only twelve, and a single wonderstruck gaze at the unearthly pools of light playing a rhythm like ripping water on the polished floor is as solemn as they manage to be. The next second, they return to their normal habits: speculating about what boy likes what girl, and dreading the complicated homework assigned by their annoying history teacher. 

But the class is not at the Concert Hall for a history lesson, or a discourse on civics, or even for an art project. Instead, they've come with their math teacher, Linnea, who is forever teaching the magic of numbers through all sorts of unorthodox ways. Linnea indicates the oblong windows opening towards the sweet, shy, virgin gold of sunlight on pale water. 

- What class of polygons are the windows? she asks.

- Sixagons, one student tries. 

- They're hexagons, stupid, another corrects. 

Then they have to tell Linnea whether these hexagons are regular or irregular, and which frames are congruent, and practice all their math terminology, until finally Linnea distributes rulers and has each group of students pick a window and record the perimeter and area. Now, perimeter is an easy metric, but area is trickier. Luckily, Linnea has taught her class how to slice complicated polygons into triangles and go from there. Her students start working, the only disturbance being that a Concert Hall staff member in a black sweater and scruffy beard is catching the attention of some of the girls. Linnea teases them that if they really want handsome men, they have to go to Sweden. With that, the giggling girls start their work. 

Then Linnea points out the fishing boats in the harbor, and quizzes her class on speed and acceleration. Students huddle in groups on the clean scrubbed floor and work out the problems in math journals. Once complete, it is almost time to go, but first, Linnea tells a story. 

- See those clouds? Did you know that in Sweden there are trolls that walk in the sky on clouds just like that?

Everyone rolls their eyes, but they love Linnea's stories and quiet down to listen. 

- The most famous of the Swedish trolls is Raoul, continues Linnea's clear voice. 

- I thought it was Thor, one student asks suspiciously, but Linnea quells him with a stern glance. 

- I think Raoul has been in this very harbor, Linnea spins dreamily. He tumbled down from the sky to sound an alarm, for evil men were hiding nearby. The townspeople sailed these very boats - Linnea points at the boats for emphasis - all night long to signal everyone in danger. Because, you know, it was unsafe to use the streets at that time. 

- Did they catch the bad guys? one student asks. 

Linnea reflects. 

- I don't know. Maybe not. But they were able to save most of the innocents. 

Everyone sits still, hoping to hear more while the spell of pure light and water plays gently around them. 

- Alright, ladies and gentlemen, back to the bus! Linnea rouses them. 

With a sigh, the bewitchment ends. Thoughts of hot crushes rush back into crowded minds, and one awkward girl worries that she, again, will be the only person sitting alone on the bus ride home. 

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