Brown Boy Problems: Fir, Like The Tree (S1 EP2)

Brown Boy Problems: Fir, Like The Tree (S1 EP2)

Mustafa Shaikh
4 min read

This week, take a trip to the 9th grade with me.

If you missed Episode 1 of Brown Boy Problems, I encourage you to read it first before diving into Episode 2.

Without further adieu ...

At the start of each ninth-grade geometry class with Mrs. Kane, there would be a handful of problems highlighted on the chalkboard from the previous night’s homework. Students were able to get extra credit if we broke out how we solved the problem.

Initially, at the beginning of the year, I rarely was able to nab one of the extra credit slots. I was at a distinct disadvantage to get to the board early enough as I was coming from gym class.

On a distance basis, the gymnasium was the furthest that you could possibly be prior to Mrs. Kane’s classroom. So even with me sprinting with my backpack through the hallways (man, I must’ve looked full-on nerd), I was usually out of luck.

After a few weeks of missing out on extra credit, I passionately argued to Mrs. Kane how I was at a competitive disadvantage compared to everyone else in the class. She eventually relented and divided the class into two halves.

Every other day, one half of the class was eligible to put problems on the board, and the other half was eligible the other days. Oh, the things that mattered to you in ninth grade.

After you solved the problem, you were to write your name up at the top of the problem. On this day—which must’ve been two to three months into the year—I forgot to write my name atop the problem I had solved. As I was back at my desk, Mrs. Kane noticed the lack of my name and asked Ben to write it in for me.

Ben was actually one of my main rivals for getting extra credit. Even with the class split in halves, we both were still sprinting to Mrs. Kane’s room to lock down one of the coveted slots.

He relished that I had forgotten to write my name atop the problem I had solved and was more than happy to oblige Mrs. Kane.

Immediately after Ben had finished, Mrs. Kane noticed an error.

“Ben, that’s not how you spell Mustafir’s name,” Mrs. Kane said.

He had spelt it: M-U-S-T-A-F-I-R.

“How do you spell it,” Ben asked. He was genuinely confused, and I don’t blame him.

Mrs. Kane, “M-U-S-T-A-F-A”

At this point, Ben is now doubling down on his look of confusion. I, along with the rest of my classmates, are laughing at the pickle Ben is in. Those classmates and I knew that it wasn’t Ben’s fault that he spelled my name wrong—it was Mrs. Kane’s.

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