High School Horror Stories: Surviving...

High School Horror Stories: Surviving the Monstrous Math Class (French version available)

by Elora Pharai
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Like everything else, high school has its ups and downs. However, one thing I’ve noticed about high school is that it has this way of making something feel much worse than it actually is. You’re at an awkward age where everything is changing: your friends, your life, your interests. Nothing is static. Plus, you’re forced to take a bunch of classes that you don’t really like at all. As a result, high school builds the perfect foundation for difficult situations. As a university student, I can now look back on my high school experiences and laugh at them. But at the time, there were many moments where I did not see a way out of my situation. The prime example of this being my math classes. As I am writing for a website that produces journal articles, you can make many assumptions about me. One of the first being that I like to write. If you guessed that then you guessed right! I have liked to write ever since I was in elementary school. That said, when I got to high school I hoped that there would be more opportunities to exercise my love for writing, but this was not the case. In elementary school, I had been really good at science, and even math. As a result, my teacher enrolled me in the STEM (now STEAM) program at my high school. Honestly speaking, this may not have been the best choice for me. I stayed in the program because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, plus at least I’d be getting a certificate for it and that would look good, right?

Getting that certificate was not an easy journey. Let me tell you, elementary school math and high school math are two very different things. As I took grade 9 math, I began to realize how difficult it could be, and I struggled immensely. However, my grade 10 math class felt much worse than the previous year because I already knew that I was not good at it.  On top of that, I was surrounded by other kids who were exceptional at math – they made it look easy. And of course, the cherry on top of math that semester was that it was the second period right after science. As a result, I ended up suffering from massive burn out after just the first half of the day. I used to spend hours on my math homework; I was always the kid who had to stay for extra time to work on tests, or go to class during lunch for extra help or get extra homework because I needed to boost my grade. I was only one of three other students who got called on for this. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these. But at the time, it honestly felt humiliating. When I asked my friends for help they tried their best, but it always took me a long time to even begin to understand what they were saying. And god, what made the fear worse was the thought of the final exam and how I already knew how lost I was going to feel during it. I believe the exam was only worth 15% of my grade, but back then that number felt unattainable. Even so, I tried my absolute best throughout the semester. I always did the extra work, I went during lunch, I paid very close attention in class, and I got help from wherever I could.

And then the time finally came for the final. At that point, I came to terms with the fact that it was okay not to be good at everything, and that math simply was not my strongest subject. On the inside I had done some re-evaluating: I knew that I wanted to be a writer. And I also knew that math was definitely not required to be one. So, I kept my head up and I walked into that exam calmly and confidently, knowing that I did everything that I could. I ended up passing the class with a B! It wasn’t as high as any of my friends’ marks, but that didn’t bother me at all. I had set my own standards.

If you’re reading this, and you’re having a class that you’re struggling with, remember one thing: progress doesn’t always make itself obvious. Just because you do everything right doesn’t mean your mark is immediately going to boost from a C to an A. You must be patient. Even though I powered through the class until the end, it was not easy at all. Math took a lot out of my self-esteem because it wasn’t like the whole class was struggling either; in my mind, that meant that it was my fault that I wasn’t doing very well. The main thing that kept me going was taking a step back and realizing how hard I was trying. Like I said, I did everything I could to get help: did extra work, reached out, and spent extra time in class. Remember to consider the class in the broader context of things; in my case, I don’t need math to help me with my current area of study. In your case you may, so try and find help wherever you can, whether it be through video tutorials, or study sessions with friends. Also keep in mind that everybody’s brain works differently; I am just catered towards the humanities. You may be the opposite, you can be good at math but not the best at English. Who knows, maybe you’re good at both. The point is that you should always put your best foot forward in anything you do. Always try your best!

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