English and Math: How My Two Worst Subjects Became My Two Best

It’s already been 14 or so posts I’ve, well, posted here on WordPress. So for all the keen mathematicians out there, by me publishing this post, I’ll be at… 15 posts. Coincidentally, it’s 2015, and it’s been 15 weeks since I posted my first blog, so I’ll be sure to make this post a pretty memorable one.

Let me start by saying that as a kid growing up in the true north, strong and free, I was never one to like Math or English as a subject. For Math, things just didn’t register in my mind, I wasn’t motivated, and seeing numbers time and time again was akin to having a year-long nightmare instead of those in-the-moment ones. In addition, I was a horrible artist (despite me being enrolled in a drawing class), and if there’s anything Math taught me back in primary school, it’s that you need an acceptable level of drawing skills. That mindset carried with me until about Grade 11, when my Math teacher really began to inspire me and made me think of a new approach to the subject.

The name was Jeyanathan; Mr. Jeyanathan (out of respect for the man, I’ve decided not to include his first name). My brother had him back in Grade 11 also (FYI he’s three years older than me), and he told me stories about his PhD, his sense of humour, the fact that he can do square roots in his head, and all that jazz. Taking his advice, I went into the first class with the mindset that the class would be a blast. Turns out I was right. But more than the humour and his credentials, Mr. J was a person I could really relate to, despite us having an age gap of about 40 to 50 years. See, I never really had that figure, especially in a math setting, and to have him be that guy, it honestly meant a lot. So then I began pinching myself and thinking if whether or not the class was really a class or a good friend telling me some advice about how to better prepare myself for the future. That relationship didn’t stop though, as I had him again as a teacher in Grade 12 for MHF4UP (Advanced Functions) and MCV4UP (Calculus and Vectors). Known by the Grade 12 collective in my high school as “semestered math,” “math,” or “that course with numbers and graphs and physics,” this was a course I needed to excel in if I wanted to get into university. Once again, his humour, mathematical prowess, and ability to relate to the students propelled me to be in the top 10 percent for both classes. TL:DR Mr. J was able to make me, a person who despised the subject, into someone who’s mathematically inclined.

Being a Canadian citizen certainly has its perks; you’re immersed into a society that’s relatively stable politically and financially, the national languages are French and English, and it’s one of a select few countries where you get to experience all four seasons in one day. Okay, maybe the last one isn’t really a perk per se, but you get the message. What is of importance here is the fact that I never really excelled in French nor English from primary school all through high school, particularly English. It’s not that I disliked the subject or anything; rather, it was the motivation (or lack thereof). Unlike math, where I began to blossom in Grade 11, it didn’t take me until the end of my first year in university before I untapped into my true potential of one of the country’s officially recognized mother tongues. Getting a 68 during my first term in the Grade 12 trimester was just one example of the ineptitude I possessed. Eventually, I managed to get a high-70 by the end of the third term, thus initiating a period of raising my grades up at the expense of rebuilding myself as a person.

What you’ll start to know about me (if you don’t already know) is that I’m all for rebuilding. In basketball terms, you could say I’m like a Larry Brown or a Mike Woodson; I’ll need time to build a team, and in the event that I leave for another position, I’ll leave knowing that I’ve created a perennial contender for sports’ biggest silverware. The same token can be applied to my studies; if I do bad, it’s not the end of the world. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and to ensure I get to that point, a continual regression isn’t in my future. So after my first year, I really began to evaluate myself and give an honest postmortem; What do I have to do differently? What initiative should I take to ensure that I don’t let this happen again?

Using an internal motivation strategy that I call “Operation McMaster,” I developed the strategy over the summer. One of the key highlights in this strategy was to think of effective ways to combat my issues with the English language. Cliché as it may be, I decided to read more and analyze more to improve my English, and through the influence of friends and family, I decided that 15 weeks from yesterday’s date, I would write a blog. What I don’t want you to get confused with is the idea that I don’t read and analyze stuff for the sake of reading and analyzing; I did it because I want to gain inspiration and incorporate the best styles from the best writers I look at into my own work. Currently, I’ve been getting decent views on my blog, and that was enough for me to accept an offer from my business school’s magazine as an in-house writer.  Aptly named the Quarterly Profit, I felt this was a great opportunity to share my ideas and turn something I used to despise into quarters (here, I’m referring to the fact that a quarter is equivalent to three months) and quarters of interesting articles for the betterment of the business student population at McMaster University. I’ve also expanded my new-found expertise to help out my friends successfully get into key executive positions and jobs through the editing of their resumes and cover letters.

One would surmise the fact that having a strong foundation in both English (spoken and written) and Math will get you pretty far in the world. And to that point, I agree. But sometimes, you have to learn to walk before you can run, and I’m a living example of that. Before I go, however, I want everyone to try and implement the PMS system that I also developed during the summer. Think of it like a joint collaboration with Operation McMaster. In this PMS system, I emphasize planning (P), motivating (M), and stabilizing (S) yourself as a person. Let’s take the example of a speech language pathologist working as an independent entity in an independent clinic. In order to be one, one would have to plan out the courses they have to take, the references they need for their placements, and to invest capital into the clinic they hope to one day operate. Motivating yourself would entail you waking up and realizing that you can make a difference in the patient’s life. Finally, stabilizing yourself as a person means you shouldn’t jump into uncharted territory unless you know for a fact that you can recuperate from it and leave the scenario a winner. To put into perspective, only do something if you know it will provide successful results.

Until next time folks,

Kelvin P

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