By Egerton Chang
It seems like death and funerals have a way with me and Olympic and World Championships 100-metre finals.
Readers may recall that in 'Failures and friendships', published August 15, 2010, I wrote about visiting a terminally ill friend (Sybil Christie) in St Ann's Bay on the Sunday that Bolt ran in the 12th IAAF Berlin World Championships (2009) 100m finals setting his world record of 9.58 seconds. Because that race was scheduled at 11 a.m., and because the trip from Kingston would take four hours round trip, I agonised about whether to go or not.
I ended as follows:
"I am glad I put all behind me and just did the right thing. Even if I had missed Bolt's world-record run. Bolt was the icing.
"Where friendship is concerned, don't put off anything any longer, do it now. If you have been meaning to call a long-time friend, do it now. If you need to tell someone close that you are sorry, or 'I love you', do it now. If you have been putting off going for lunch with a relative, stop procrastinating, do it now.
"I am glad I went that Sunday in August."
Fast-forward to Sunday, August 5, 2012.
My former helper of almost 20 years, Althea, lost her mother, Lucinta, recently, and the funeral was scheduled at noon on that Sunday when Bolt was to run in the XXX Olympiad 100m finals. Now, funerals have a reputation for starting late, and for having long tributes and remembrances. So even though we were certain to miss the semi-finals, which were scheduled to start at 1:45 p.m., there was a distinct chance of also missing the finals scheduled for 3:55 p.m.
Nevertheless, I still decided to join my wife, Margaret, her mother, her sister and her brother-in-law in attending the funeral at Macedonia Seventh-day Adventist Church on Maxfield Avenue.
I (jokingly) texted Althea in the morning: "The church better have a TV." It didn't. And the service started late (of course). "Oh no," I thought. Fortunately, the weather was overcast and rainy and very gusty, so the heat was not overbearing.
Come 1:30 p.m., I texted my son, Warren, "Text me the results of the semis."
At 1:48 p.m., he texted "Powell 3rd." I thought, "Here we go again." Then "Gatlin 1st." Then, "He eased up and didn't see the other guy." I said to myself, "Here we definitely go again. Par for Asafa." This was in light of Asafa's recent record, including his performance in the heats when he ran out of his lane paying too much attention to the second-place runner.
Next race: "Bolt 1st." I thought, "As expected." He then texted, "Blake 1st."
Finally, he texted, "Powell got in." I said to my wife, "The brute (my actual word can't be printed) got in".
All this time tributes for Lucinta were in "full stride".
Maybe it was the spirit in the church, but I texted my son and a few other friends, "Powell is going to surprise."
The service was finally over at around 2:25 p.m. and, after another 25 minutes of exchanging pleasantries, etc., we left with enough time to see the finals in comfort.
Bolt gold, Blake silver and Gatlin bronze in an Olympic record time of 9.63 seconds - the second-fastest time ever.
As I predicted, Powell's performance was indeed surprising. Nuff said.
'Big up' to all our Olympians, especially those who got medals. They did us proud and won more medals than most anticipated.
TEACHING STYLES (AND RESULTS)
I had an eminent lecturer of economics at McGill University when I was doing my MBA. Prof Donald E. Armstrong was the founding director of McGill's MBA programme. He was also a wise teacher. He used to set weekly exams consisting of 10 multiple-choice questions, which he was accustomed to marking and giving the results the following week, at which time he would discuss the test.
Professor Armstrong had a novel view of marking questions. If more than 70 per cent of the students got a question wrong, he would disregard the question. His philosophy was that the majority could have got the answer wrong because of a variety of reasons, including:
1. The question could have been badly worded and hence confusing.
2. The subject matter could have been poorly taught.
3. The majority of students could have been plain dumb or did not study for the exam.
While the last was a distinct possibility, Professor Armstrong chose to accept that he could have been at fault in wording the question or in teaching the subject matter. Thus, withdrawing the question was the 'fair' thing to do.
I make this point to highlight the different style of teaching and also the varying results.
Take my daughter who attends a prominent girls-only high school. She received a 57 per cent average in mathematics for her just-completed fourth-form work. The comments were: "Still unfocused. Much work has to be done next year." She actually sat the CXC maths exam at St Hugh's this May, one year before required, and in the recently released results received an A. She, in fact, received straight 'A's in the three subsections. How is this explainable?
Now, I must admit that she took extra maths classes at a well-known private institution run by a classmate of mine known for its excellent results, but that only emphasises the point. My classmate, while strict, has developed his own effective and inimitable style of teaching maths. (Email me if you need to contact him).
Some teachers get decidedly more out of a student than others. I am sure there are many readers who can relate to this either personally, or via a relative or friend.
The moral of this piece is: Don't write off your son/daughter/ward because they get low grades at school. If you can, attempt to home-school or try a different teacher, or at least seek to encourage them.
Incidentally, why when a student passes CXC (often with distinction), outside his/her school, the school insists on making that student resit the subject? Seems like a waste.
Finally, how many of us remember the 'dunce' from high school who turned out being more successful than us? I certainly can.
Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.