April 30 – not a lone Wolfe

280/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ll admit it – I’m a bit, okay, a lot superficial.  I really don’t pay attention to news or politics; however, I can tell you who got voted out last night from most reality shows!!  Okay, if I’m being honest, I also didn’t vote for most of my life.  I only started voting in the last 5 years.  Before you lose it on me, hear me out.  I felt that an uninformed vote was worse than no vote and thus, I refrained from voting for most of my life.  I didn’t and still don’t trust most politicians and would rather not vote with the understanding that I can’t complain because I didn’t exercise my right.   So backtracking – I was working at UBC and would have to do the hour long commute and one political season, all the candidates for mayor were on the side of the road with their entourages and there was Green Party candidate Michael!  All by himself.  For that entire week, he was there on his own every morning during the rush hour commute.  Yes, the other parties had hordes of people waving signs and balloons but there was Michael on his own and that got to me.  I did some research on the Green Party and realized that my views were totally what Michael and the party stood for.  Yes, that was the first year that I voted because I felt represented because the party’s views were mine and I felt that my vote, although not making a difference in the overall big picture, mattered in that it was what I believed in.  Fast forward about 5 years and here I am in a new teaching position at McNair and who is teaching with me but Michael!  I am amazed by him!  He is the first person that I’ve met who 100% lives by what he preaches – he started an Environment club.  He created a sustainable courtyard.  He spends countless hours outside of the classroom ensuring that students who are interested in things outside of the curriculum (other than sports – argggh!!) are able to express themselves and be a part of the school community.  I also have to say that any event I hold – from a Cancer fundraiser to a social gathering to a reality pool invite, Michael is right there supporting me!  I am so glad that I have gotten to know him over the last 4 years but I’m even happier that he has had a lasting influence on me because of his concern for the environment and our carbon footprint.  Here’s to you my buddy Michael, I turn off extra lights in your honour!


April 29 – cancer is a b!+@#

279/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In 6 days, my Marketing 12 class raised just under $700 for cancer research.  I think that’s amazing but what’s more amazing is the opening of wallets by staff and students at the school and I’m sure it’s because a lot of them have had personal familial experiences in regards to the havoc cancer wreaks.  I am one of those rare people who, at my age of 50, has not been touched by cancer in my family or extended family and I know I’m lucky; however, I know of acquaintances who have gone through it and are survivors.  Even though I don’t have any personal stories, I still think it’s important to donate as the stories I have heard about what people have gone through and the toll that it has taken on their families is one that I cannot even begin to fathom.  I have been deeply moved by their experiences; thus, I take it upon myself to raise funds for cancer research via my teaching and I am fortunate that I have a component on not-for-profit marketing in my curriculum.  One does not have to have direct experience with something in order to do something about it and I noticed that same sentiment in my students – some of whom went over and above their student roles to ensure that the week-long event was successful.  For all the cancer survivors and the not so fortunate ones, I am inspired by you as cancer definitely doesn’t discriminate and I am going to keep doing my part by honouring you not only in this gratitude post but continue on with this fundraising project for as long as I teach my Marketing 12 class.


April 28 – i didn’t know

278/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Tonight we had parent teacher conferences.  As a teacher, this can be a relatively easy evening or a highly stressful one.  Mine have always ever been in the former category.  Teaching electives (Psychology, Marketing and Accounting this year), you don’t get booked solid but at the school I am at (McNair) you definitely get about 50 – 70% of the spots filled.  I have also noticed that most of the parents that schedule are of the “good” kids but the ones you really need to speak with don’t book – ah well, nature of the beast I suppose.  We teachers lightheartedly joke about the “good” kid parents who want to know how to raise the 98% higher as their child has to get in to university – oh and they are just in grade 9 or just want to hear how wonderful their child is and by proxy how wonderful a parent they must be.   Ah, parenting : )  I needed tonight though to remind me of something that I alluded to in yesterday’s gratitude post – there are so many, many students that you affect and effect in a myriad of ways but are not cognizant of.  I have focused a lot of these gratitude posts based on direct impacts that have happened to me because of something being said or done until this evening.  I was sitting in my class talking to a parent who had brought in their grade 12 son into the interview.  She told me that she was happy with his grade (84% which is two percent away from an “A” and no mention of that) but she wanted to let me know how much he enjoyed the class and how he came home every day to tell her about what we were discussing and learning in Psychology.  I was blown out of the water – this boy, who I, up until that moment, thought had total disdain for the subject and also my teaching was actually really into the course.  The entire term, he sat there with his buddy never saying anything unless I asked a direct question of him.  The entire term, never once showing any indication of interest in the course.  The entire term, just going through the motions – or so I thought.  I was reminded of similar conversations I’ve had with parents almost every term of every year that I have been teaching and only in writing these gratitude posts am I realizing that those non-vocal/introvert kids are also connecting with me but on a different level than what I am accustomed to.  I needed tonight to appreciate those kids that are loving what I do but have never let on that are presently in my class, that have been in my classes over the last 20+ year and that will be in my classes.  I feel guilty that you have been overshadowed by the students similar to me in personality but I take comfort in the fact that regardless, you have appreciated what I have done and I honestly appreciate you and wont’ take it for granted that because you haven’t said anything doesn’t mean that you don’t feel anything.  Thank you my introvert/shy/reserved yet appreciative students – life lesson learned.

April 27 – ego boost

277/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve had a crazy busy week at work and it’s only hump day.  In charge of creating a Grad Auction with my Marketing 12 class raising funds to cover a photo booth at the grad dinner.  On top of that, also coordinating a Cancer Fundraiser with the same class culminating with a teacher head shave.  All this being completed this week and then coordinating experiences with local restaurants for my Marketing class, a kindergarten and grade 2 class to work with my Psychology students on child development and finding, learning and teaching free online tax software for my Accounting class while also taking 50 students to Playland – crazy!!  Yes, I have written about certain students who have told me about the difference I have made personally to them as a teacher and I’ve written about students who have affected me both of which are very, very important to me and which I am not downplaying in the least but the behind the lesson organization is oftentimes not understood by most students.  However, today, a student said to me that he didn’t realize all the stuff that I have done and organized for the class so far and as a grade 11 student last year, he just thought it was something the school did as part of its routine and not a teacher and his class.  Wow, this was all I needed to keep me going and doing what I do – yes other teachers understand but I don’t really think others outside of education (even spouses daresay I) get all that goes into getting a lesson/project/educational experience prepared.  I took his comment as a mental pat on the back and also thanked him.  After reflecting on his comment further, I can say that I can probably count on one hand students who have said something in the same vein but that’s okay, every 5 years or so is when I need that ego-boost 😉  Of course, we don’t teach for the accolades, it’s all about our passion but it’s also nice to be recognized for a job well done every so often.  Thank you to the students who have a greater awareness of what teaching is all about and are willing to let the teacher know that they are aware. 🙂

April 26 – rock, PAPER, scissors

276/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Straight out of high school, I entered UBC in the Commerce program.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life – I had an inkling but it wasn’t fleshed out – so Commerce offered a door that would lead to many other doors.  The entire program was theoretical and one did analyses of various problems or led discussions or worked on case studies but not once did we have to write a paper.  As well, I did not have to write a formal research (or otherwise) paper in high school English.  In my second year of Commerce with all my electives being in the Arts (the “ologies” as I like to call them), I was tasked with writing a paper in my Psychology 200 (and some odd number) course.   Paper?  I had no clue what that meant.  I read the outline of what was required and got the research material and decided to go ahead and write this paper.  Not thinking much about it, I submitted it with a smug satisfaction that this Arts stuff is way easier than Commerce.  I received that paper (I’m sure marked by a Teaching Assistant (TA)) with all sorts of red marks – yes, red marks outlining my flawed arguments, my grammatical structure weaknesses, my errors in proper formatting – basically every error a high school student would have made.  Needless to say, I also received a failing grade.  Yes, university was a rude awakening for me as a year earlier, I had failed 3 courses and now here I was failing papers.  I went and talked to the professor who obviously didn’t read my paper but gave me advice on how to write future papers and who to talk with about such tasks.  Being the keener that I am, I paid serious attention and learned how to write a proper research paper.  This is something I wished I had learned how to do let alone correctly but at all back in high school or first year university.  I am very grateful for having taken the course and having that TA make all sorts of corrections as I could have gone through Commerce without taking any electives outside the program and never learned how to write.  I am further grateful as most of my Masters’ program required the writing and submission of numerous papers and failing a paper in my 40s would have been much tougher to take than failing a paper at 19/20.  Because of that TA, I make, yes make, my Psychology 12 students write a paper so they have the experience under their belt regardless of whether they pursue further education.  Thank you TA not only from me but the trickle down effect it had on my own students – developing such an important skill.

April 25 – lifestyle choice

275/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  About 23 years ago, I made a decision that affected the very essence of who I am.  After seeing a documentary on the processing of beef and being heavily affected by what I saw, I decided to cut out all red meat (in my mind that was pork and beef).  It was a bit difficult as growing up my entire family from parents to uncles and aunts were meat eaters – every meal had a huge meat component from sausages and bacon at breakfast to luncheon meats and burgers for lunch and then steaks (beef and pork) or chicken and turkey for dinner.  McDs and KFC were the letters of choice whenever mom didn’t want to cook.  However, that documentary got me to thinking about what my part was in the process and I just couldn’t live with myself.  I was 26 but it was only a choice for myself – never inflicting my beliefs on others (the only vegetarian in my family immediate and extended).  A year later, I happened upon another documentary on the chicken production industry and I was done.  At the same time, a teacher friend told me about fish and bottom feeders and well, I quit that like it was yesterday.  I’ve had many critics of my lifestyle choice – a principal who told me “real men eat meat”, my own mother telling me “why are you doing this to the family?”, others telling me that we are evolved and at the top of the food chain meant to eat meat and finally the ones who take one look at my skin colour and think it’s a religious choice (fyi, least religious person you will ever find writing a blog).  I held strong and with the exception of introducing fish back into my diet about a decade ago (compromised immune system and thus I require essential fatty acids and omega something or others), I have never (knowingly and willingly) eaten meat.  I appreciate all the friends and family in my life who have accommodated my choices by selecting restaurants that cater to my tastes, cooking an option for me specifically, even choosing vegetarian options here and there themselves.  I go along with the jesting about my non-meat choices but know that you respect my decisions.  Yes, my life as a vegetarian is much easier today than it was two decades ago as the options and choices available to me are endless but it’s the people around me who have made it that much easier.  Thank you to my friends and family who help me out with the way I choose to (not) eat.

April 24 – can you tell me how to get…

274/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Both my parents were immigrants to Canada – my dad in the late 50s and my mom in the early 60s.  They had good enough English skills to be able to get by quite well in the new Western culture that they found themselves in; however, they chose to speak to me and my sister in Punjabi and thought that it was the school’s job to teach us English.  Our elderly next door English speaking neighbours encouraged my parents to let us watch Sesame Street in our pre-school years as they convinced my parents that our oral English language skills would be that much better entering Kindergarten – and they were right.  I remember watching Sesame Street in the mornings – at that time I recall a 3 to 4 hour block of it and then a further hour or so in the early afternoons.   I can honestly say that I was enthralled with the show and what I was learning (although I didn’t know I was learning).  I practiced every word and letter and just sat there – literally in front of the tv (I think I have bad eyesight because of how much I watched).  I remember Oscar, The Cookie Monster and Big Bird, Bert and Ernie and the humans (Bob, Carol and the multitude of others).  I’m sure I subconsciously picked up on the ethnic diversity of the cast in addition to the conscious educational aspects.  I don’t have any hard facts but I really feel that watching Sesame Street gave me the academic edge in elementary school equivalent to those kids who go to preschool.  I also feel that the show gave me confidence in my abilities and that not having English as a first language did not pose a hindrance to my learning in any sense as I had Sesame Street there as my private tutor.  I believe that without Jim Henson’s muppets and the multitude of producers, actors and puppeteers, I would have had an added disadvantage in life.  Whoever says that tv is not educational, I would have to disagree – it can be if the right programmes are watched by the right people – academic learning does not have to take place just in a classroom, it can take place in one’s living room.  Thank you Sesame Street for giving me a very fair advantage that made all the difference in the world for my abilities and my confidence!

April 23 – basement dweller

273/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Sharing and Respect.  I was taught the meaning of these two words my entire childhood up into my teens.  No, I’m not speaking about things like toys or food.  I’m talking about space.  Most Indo-canadian children will understand what I’m talking about – basement rentals!  For as far as I can remember, I shared houses with others.  I don’t really remember much of my early life in New Westminster but I do remember living on Riverdale Drive in Richmond and sharing our home with others.  My parents had a full suite in the basement (2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, washroom) which they rented out from as far back as I can remember.  Growing up, I knew no different – people share homes.  I learned to share our space with others – yard and house.  I learned how to be respectful of others regarding noise, time, and privacy.  I also learned from the various renters.   There was cool George & Glenda – a young couple who were kinda funky, loved taking pictures and told me to focus on my education.  There was Slavo & Jana and their two kids –  a European couple who had just emigrated from Yugoslavia and were learning the language and the culture.  There was Mike and his Grandmother – he so cool with the multitude of Asian girlfriends and she so nice like a second grandmother to me.  I’m sure there were at least a dozen or so “families” that made our basement their home for as long as they needed to.  In addition to sharing and respect, I learned so much more about people by having to share a common living place with them.  Yes, I didn’t love it all the time and my first home did not have a rental unit much to the chagrin of my parents but I understand why my parents needed to rent out their home and don’t fault them at all.  I learned a lot from all the people who passed through our house on Riverdale as they had a small part in shaping the man I am today.  I know I’ll never see them nor remember them if I saw them today but I’m glad that they crossed my path and for that, I thank them.

April 22 – motherland

272/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Today’s gratitude post is not about a person.  Today is about a bunch of people – a culture, traditions, a way of life and being – my motherland.  This morning and afternoon, I attended a Professional Development workshop about First Peoples’ (First Nations/Aboriginals/Indian) past and present so we as educators could better understand what they had to endure in residential schools/land rights in the history of Canada to where they are today and what is happening to their people.  Being an ethnic person, I had a different take-away experience as I started thinking about my “people”.  I don’t recall if I have admitted this but I coined my own moniker when I was writing my blog for the Vancouver Province newspaper – The Whitest Brown Guy.  I know very little about my heritage and culture.  The school that I teach at is about a 1/3 Indo-Canadian and the boys especially (in my classes) give me grief about being “too white”.  It’s friendly banter but today got me to thinking about my ethnicity and heritage and I have to admit that I am very proud that I have such a great heritage.  Even though I was born in Canada, my ancestors come from a land full of people with diverse cultures and traditions – my specific one being from the northern state of the Punjab.  I wasn’t very proud of being ethnic growing up because I was different – I was marked and it was easy fuel for the bullies.  Did I want to deny my ethnicity?  Hell yes – anything to get away from the turmoil of the teen years.  But here I am today proud of my heritage and where I came from.  I no longer deny who I am and who my people are.  I am only one aspect of a very diverse culture and that diverse culture is only one aspect of who I am but it has shaped me and for that, I am thankful for all that my motherland is and represents.  I am Ethnic.  I am Minority.  I am Indian.  I am Punjabi.  I am Indo-Canadian.  I am Me.  I am proud of my heritage!

April 21 – Prince

271/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I heard about Prince’s death this morning from a friend who came by my classroom.  My heart sank.  I was devastated.  Thankfully, my class was working on individual assignments so I could take time to process.  I loved Prince like no other!  People had/have their musical idols – Bowie, Lennon, Cobain, Mercury, Houston, Jackson – all amazing no doubt but Prince epitomized music for me.  He was my idol.  I love music but his music spoke to me on a different level – it was funk.  It was rock.  It was soul.  And it touched my soul.  I loved his image too and he, other than David Bowie, was a male who kept on reinventing himself with look after look – something I have done since I was a young adult – he made it normal for me as a teenage/young male to change up how I presented myself.  I idolized him.  He also made it acceptable not to have to be hyper-masculine to be a male.  He had attitude.  He oozed confidence and sexual bravado.  He didn’t take shit.  He talked smack about whatever he wanted to.  He wore his androgyny proudly.  He did it his own way regardless of what anyone thought. He was Prince.  Everything about him, I loved – and have come to emulate consciously but more subconsciously.  He produced for other artists and after hearing their collabs (Sheena Easton for one), I became a fan of that artist but the reason was the Prince sound.  His videos were iconic – When Doves Cry and Kiss are etched into my memory as are dozens of others.  His signature voice – the falsetto (Camille voice) morphing into his deep natural voice and the amazing production of his songs equaled perfection.  No matter what you called him – Prince, The Purple One, The Kid, The Artist Formerly Known As, Symbol – you can’t deny his talent.  I didn’t understand how people were moved by a celebrity’s death, someone they didn’t know, until today.  Perhaps it reminds me of my mortality as I grew up on his music in the 80s and now I’m 50 and he was only 57.  Perhaps he felt like a member of my extended family as he was always there musically and visually to get me through life’s moments.  Perhaps his songs resonated so deeply with me as they formed the soundtrack of my teens/young adulthood.  Whatever the reason, I’m gonna miss the musical genius but I take comfort in the fact that I have his music to remind me of his talent and what they meant to me.  I concoct a purple martini in your honour and salute you!