August 17 – in absentia

24/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. So this is a back-handed gratitude post. During my student teacher days back in 1991, unlike most student teachers who only had 1 – 3 school teacher sponsors and 1 university advisor, I ended up with 5 school teacher sponsors because as a Business Education teacher, I was deemed to be “qualified” to teach everything from Accounting, Computers, Keyboarding, Marketing, Entrepreneurship etc etc. My UBC advisor was supposed to check up on me from 5 – 8 times during that 13 week practicum and watch me teach, listen to any concerns I had, give me advice from their perspective on classroom management, pedagogical methods, working with adults – basically act as a teacher mentor. The school teacher sponsors, since there were 5 of them and only saw me teach in their classes for a short time, didn’t have the full opportunity to give me their attention and suggestions as I was literally all over the place at Tupper that year. As I waited day after day, week after week, to see my university sponsor, she never came by. I asked the others in my Business Ed Co-horts (some had my advisor and others had a different one) and each of them had seen their respective advisor at least half a dozen times before the final weeks of the practicum. I ended up teaching more than the required, as I would later learn, as I had no one from UBC acting on my behalf so I did what was asked of me and then some. The week of the final report, my five sponsor teachers and myself sat at a table with my UBC advisor. She looked at me and immediately realized that she had never seen me in the 13 weeks of my teaching practicum. I sat there thinking this is the end – I need to confess because this is the last test – my honesty and integrity. As I was about to speak, she pulled out these glowing reports about “my teaching” and passed them to the other 5 as they passed around their reports. It became evident to me that each of the other 5 thought that the UBC advisor must have seen me teach in another class as her report about me was more generic – my personality, organization, rapport with students – rather than specific to any subject. The other 5 reports were accurate reflections of my teaching but my Faculty Advisor’s was really nothing about me – I mean, to this day, I have never had a day planner and she mentioned how organized mine was??!! I didn’t know what to do as my heart pounded during that entire meeting and what seemed like an hour, ended in about 10 minutes when everyone started signing the reports and congratulating me. Upon my return to UBC, the guys in my co-hort started showing their reports and only then did I realize that “my” report was exactly the same as Peter’s but my name was replaced – I told him he could not stop laughing. I never saw her again, although I do know she continued to advise for a few more years. I kept this a secret for a long as I thought there would be that inevitable knock on my classroom asking me to give up my teaching license but eventually I started telling people about my experience – after all, I have my full credentials. I do have to thank this Faculty Advisor for actually not being there and not dictating to me what the theoretical aspects of teaching were from a university perspective and not influencing me with her ways of dealing with things. I have to thank her for allowing me to figure out my own methods that have worked for me during that practicum and continue to work for me now. I also have to thank her for also showing me what you shouldn’t do – forget about your students but rather keep in constant contact and be a support through a stressful time – and that helped me when I had the same role at UBC years later. Thank you VS for not being there for me 😉


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