June 30 – how do you spell your name?

341/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In teacher world, the normality is to teach other people’s children.  People that you don’t know.  However, sometimes you end up teaching people you know through friendships or familial relationships.  For me, that hasn’t really ever happened except very early in my career, I substitute taught (one of only two times in my life) and ended up with my cousin and his friends in my class.  What does happen for me – quite often – is that my teacher friends have ended up teaching my children.  Many of them saw them as babies and then ended up having them in their classroom.  Yes, it’s awkward for my kids, my friends and me but all parties have gotten used to it.  Ornella is one of these teacher friends who ended up teaching my daughter – the daughter that she saw me bring to Burnett when we both taught together.  Ornella ended up being her counsellor in high school and I am so, so very glad that that ended up happening.  My daughter had a great tight-knit group of friends in elementary school.  The graduating grade 7 class went on to two different high schools – 80% to Steveston and 20% to McMath (at that time, it has reversed the other way around for my son seven years later).  Unfortunately for my daughter, her entire friendship group ended up at Steveston and she was lone warrior to battle McMath and what a battle it became because of the mean girls who accompanied her from Westwind.  She wanted to transfer to the school I taught at and I entertained those notions until Ornella phones me and gave me friend to friend, parent to parent and counsellor to parent advice which was to stop giving her an out.  She may struggle that first year but Ornella would be there for her to guide her and get her in the right classes. I remember my daughter going to see Ornella to figure things out and I felt at ease to know that I had a friend in my corner to help my child out.   Besides being an advocate for my daughter, Ornella and I have a good friendship.  Yes, we haven’t seen each other in ages (which will be remedied this weekend) but oh the laughs and stories we share when we do get together – she remembers every Randy-ism that has taken place and sadly there have been many and I’m sure I will be hearing about a few this weekend but I look forward to it because it comes from a place of friendship.  Thank you Ornella for being there for my daughter and for being an awesome friend to me!!

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June 29 – McNair

340/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I didn’t think this group was going to make the cut but it has. Last night was the McNair staff year end windup party and it was epic! I realized as I was socializing that I enjoy these people and that I have made quite a few friends over the last four years and I didn’t think I was going to when I first started. My initial two years were basically hell but I am also to blame as I believe I made it a self-fulfilling prophecy in that I was not going to like McNair and I made it happen. I also tried to apply out of the school to other jobs at other schools but each time I did, someone who was laid off got top priority for the jobs I wanted. This was the first year that I didn’t apply for any job and that is when I realized that I actually like it here. Yes, the students at this school have a lot to do with it but the social being that is me thrives on the relationships and I’ve built and I’ve built quite a few good ones with co-workers here (sadly having to say goodbye to a few of them today as they are leaving the school through no choice of their own). To my colleagues and friends at McNair, thank you for accepting me into the school when I really didn’t accept myself here and for bearing with me until I made McNair my home. I look forward to working with my McNair buddies for years to come – okay, six hopefully before I retire! 😉 In your honour, I will be sipping many a drink on a patio as summer is officially here!

June 28 – i learned from the best

339/365 people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’m going to say it – basically, only one or two classes in all my seven years of university at UBC enrolled in the Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Education and Master of Education degrees actually taught me anything worthwhile.  I can’t even remember the countless courses I had to take for the sake of having to take them – basically jumping through the hoops in order to get my required degree – and most of them did not matter and taught me very little.  Yes, some will argue that the courses and university education in general “taught” me how to think.  No, I knew how to think – that’s how I got into university in the first place.  So I go back to my belief that very little of the education there was of value to me personally.  I had some great professors and Kimberly Schonert-Reichl is in the top 5, if not in the top 3.  I had to take several electives during my Masters degree and I decided to take her course under Educational and Counseling Psychology – it was Social Emotional Learning in Adolescents (or some theme around that).  I thought that yet again, this would be another filler course that I just had to get through and complete what was required of me but as I’m sure you can guess, that was not the case.  Kimberly was very easy going and her nurturing personality came out in class.  Different people brought in food to the class weekly to share while the lecture was going on – an idea that I “borrowed” from her when I was teaching at UBC myself.  She was heavily involved with the Roots of Empathy program which she described during lectures and imagine my surprise when I learned that my son who was in Grade 1 at the time was involved in said program in his classroom!  She allowed digression from the course syllabus as long as the work challenged and inspired us.  I ended up completing an intensive, fact-filled research paper on Relational Aggression (basically Mean Girls) to better understand what my grade 8 daughter was going through and to also relate to the high school girls I taught.  This was the first assignment in all of my university career that I thoroughly enjoyed completing.  After reading it, she suggested that I get it published but I was too nervous to even entertain the thought; however, I have shared the paper with several colleagues and a few of my students.  I want to thank Kimberly for being such a wonderful educator who not only inspired me with the way she taught but also allowed me to get interested in what it was she was teaching which benefited me on a personal level.  How I wished all my professors were like you!

June 27 – Burnett

338/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  If you’ve read my Facebook posts in the last week, you no doubt have heard that I finally have consciously decided that I belong at the school I have been teaching at for the past four years – in fact, I had not unpacked my boxes in all those years on some subconscious hope of perhaps moving back longing for my old school – Burnett.  It was not the students, it was not the building, it was not the teaching load – it was the people I worked with at Burnett.  I remember upon leaving to teach at UBC (7 years ago) that I made a goodbye speech and in it, I was able to talk about a significant event that I had with each and every staff member from the janitor to the principal, from the secretary to the teaching assistant, from the teachers to the business assistant – that’s how involved I was with the social aspect and making connections with all of my co-workers.  Of course, I didn’t know everyone on a deep personal level but I did know many and I valued that.  Tonight, was a Burnett year end party and I was invited as I was and will always be (according to the hostess) a Burnetter at heart.  I was excited and as soon as I got there, instantly old friendships were rekindled and current ones were tended to.  I missed talking to my friends but I also realized that I have moved on of course physically but more importantly psychologically – the unpacking of the boxes was both literal and metaphorical.  Yes, Burnett was my first real home for sixteen teaching years as I was only in Vancouver for two years (at a different high school each year) but I am no longer a part of the current Burnett.  That doesn’t mean that I no longer associate with the school but now I accept and associate with the Burnett staff but belong at McNair – that’s where I am supposed to be.  Tonight’s party revealed that Burnett had an amazing staff that I worked with over my career there and I am very grateful for sharing the space with such awesome people and want to thank everyone who made my time there enjoyable and I am so glad that I still keep in touch with so many of you – you made me that much of a better teacher!  I do the Breaker Wave in your honour!

June 26 – Richmond-ites

337/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve heard the city I call home being referred to as Ditchmond instead of Richmond.  I guess it was coined back in the day when Richmond was mostly ditches but I guess it’s now come to mean its boring-ness and lack of anything fun to do?  I could be wrong but whomever has that perception hasn’t really had the experiences I have had.  It’s weird to me but as soon as I cross any bridge or the tunnel back into Richmond, I feel a sense of ease – weird, I know.  I was born in New Westminster and moved to Richmond when I was 7.  I remember the old Richmond and the sense of community we had.  Yes, I am saddened by what I see in some parts of Richmond – yes, change is inevitable but you don’t have to like it.  I am very fortunate to be living in a part of Richmond (Steveston) where there is community – the neighbours talk to you and wave, the dog walkers give you a nod, and a lot of people know who you are.  I went to a wine festival last night and there were so many Richmond-ites.  I knew a good dozen or so and it was nice just saying hi and connecting.  The other day I needed some supplies for a Prince inspired costume – our staff has amazing year end parties – and I put my message into a Richmond forum and was given a purple umbrella, purple hair accessories and a purple shirt (all free) to use and then return.  Wow!  You really don’t get to pick where you live when you are growing up but you do as an adult.  I have stayed in the same city where I was raised and probably will move when I retire – Europe baby – but until that time, I do like the inhabitants of Richmond who make my city a place I want to continue to live in (and work in).  Thank you fellow Richmond-ites for keeping the Richmond that I grew up in more or less intact and for making me feel happy to live in this city!

June 25 – that indian boy

336/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  One can never really know if they inspire others.  One can never really know if they are a role model to others.  Unless that one is told.  Teaching is a career that lends itself to making differences for people but as I alluded to, you don’t know who you are affecting or how you are doing so.  At McNair, the school that I am at, a school with a diverse student population, and a school with many students from the same ethnic heritage as myself, I was worried that I wouldn’t be Indian enough for my students – okay, let’s be honest, I knew I was not Indian enough if at all and wondered how they would take me.  There was an Indian boy in my classes with a turban and surprisingly, he hung on my every word and listened intently in my Psychology class.  Gurkaran would ask me about how different theories helped explain certain types of behaviour.  He would question some of my choices in regards to my education and job choices growing up.  He would ask my advice on current issues and I was told by another teacher that Gurkaran was really impressed by me and I was having an impact on him.  I was more than surprised as I did not realize that I was having any type of influence on him – for whatever reason and shortcomings/stereotypes I built up, I just assumed that the last connection I would make would be with Indian kids but here I was doing just that.  Because of Gurkaran, I had to let go of a lot of stereotypes I had about my western upbringing and those of the Indian students I was teaching – an important and necessary revelation and realization for me.  There were much more commonalities that I had with my Indian students and my differences actually added to my abilities as a teacher to inspire all kids regardless of ethnicity.  I am thankful for Gurkaran in making me aware of the connectivity I have with students that I unconsciously put a barrier up against.  Demolition fully complete this year!

June 24 – familial bonds

335/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Sometimes a person doesn’t even have to have a direct impact on another to be having an impact on that other.  Does that make sense?  Let me explain.  My wife’s family – especially the cousins – have been close to us.  We have seen them grow up and become young men and women and then move on to join the ranks of parenthood and now their children are becoming teenagers.  Sandy is one of those cousins.  I remember going to Golden, BC and to a duplex where Sandy and her siblings all met me for the first time – the guy who married their cousin.  I remember Sandy being a young teenager with long light brown hair.  Although, due to proximity (Golden and Vancouver), we all would get together at family functions.  Then Sandy stayed with us a year while going to school.  She had a great influence on our daughter Natasha and to this day, Natasha, and also Ethan, look up to her.  They watch the way they raise the kids and use both of my kids as role models but in a respectable way.  I watch and see how both my kids and their kids get along even though there is a large age discrepancy.  I watch how advice is being given and I see the maturity exhibited by both sets of kids.  Sandy has done a great job with her kids but also with mine.  Even though my wife has no sisters, Sandy is like a younger sister to her and the first aunt that comes to my kids’ mind when they think about going to a family home to hang/have dinner – “let’s go to Sandee musee’s house!”  Thanks Sandy for being a great part of our family and being there for us all.

June 23 – u knew what was right for me

334/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Some days I have no clue who I am going to write about and then all of a sudden it just dawns on me because of a thought or an interaction.  Tonight, it was the latter – I was invited to a Vancouver Business Educations Teachers BBQ and I decided to attend.  Yes, I teach in Richmond but the organizers remember me because my practicum and first two years of full-time teaching were in Vancouver way back in the early 90s.  They also extend the invite to me as I was at most of the Vancouver high schools supervising student teachers when I had my gig at UBC.  As I was sipping my big ass red solo cup of wine, in walked Shamim.  I had totally forgotten about Shamim up until today.  She was paramount in my decision to take a job in Richmond as a teacher.  After my practicum in 1991 at Tupper in Vancouver, I ended up with two year long jobs in Vancouver at Britannia and Templeton.  Although they were full-time, I did not have a continuing contract.  I applied in 1993 for a job in Vancouver at David Thompson and through a series of circumstances, a job opportunity at Burnett in Richmond.  I ended up with full time continuing contract job offers from both districts.  This was unheard of (I was told).  I was then given offers from both districts in terms of crediting me seniority if I took a position with their respective districts.  My heart was set on taking the job in Vancouver.  I phoned up Shamim, who was at the school and who had met me earlier.  Small world in that I would either end up working with her at David Thompson or her husband Mike at Burnett!!  She put it in the easiest terms possible: although, she and the staff would love to work with me in Vancouver at David Thompson, I lived in Richmond and the school was minutes away from home and I would be doing this job for a lifetime and needed to be close to home and that I needed to take the job away from where I was comfortable.  I 100% thought she would have said to come to David Thompson and had that mind-set but after her talk, I took a lot of time to rethink my decision and well of course, I heeded her advice and the rest is history.  I know I made the right decision but I’m so glad that Shamim was there to steer me in the right direction because my ship was stalled!  I need people to tell me what to do and I so needed Shamim.  I love teaching in Richmond and I’m so glad that Shamim didn’t spare my feelings and told me exactly what to do.  Although I thanked you in person this afternoon, I need to thank you digitally so all know that you had a big part in me being the teacher I am in Richmond!!  Kudos to you for knowing me better than I knew myself ; )

June 22 – Hold Me Now

333/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  My defining moment came in 1987.  The year prior (1986) I got that amazing job at Expo 86 and the year after (1988) I got married – two amazing life milestones but the one that shaped me probably the most was traveling to Quebec on my own to learn French for the summer.  I had attempted travel (after high school graduation) to Europe with others and that was a nightmare so I was very wary to say the least.  I traveled across Canada on a plane and a train on my own – the train being an amazing experience!  I met people who had lasting influences on me.  I experienced many, many things for the first time.  I basically broke out of the self-imposed shell that protected me!  However, the highlight of the entire summer came from being at the right place at the right time.  I, with a few friends, were supposed to go to a club – a former cathedral converted into a dance place – but we couldn’t get ourselves organized.  We then heard about a band playing in the back field of our campus (Universite de Laval) as a warmup before their performance at said cathedral.  It was all on the hush-hush and only a few people were privy to the information.  I was in the in-group but more on the outside of the inside in that I was not informed who the band was.  I got there.  There were perhaps 20-30 of us and who was performing but only one of my all-time favourite 80s group – The Thompson Twins.  Okay, for you young ‘uns, you have no clue what I’m talking about but they would be the equivalent of say The Black Eyed Peas in their hey-day!  I was in shock.  This was my 80s music.  Tom Bailey (lead singer) epitomized coolness to me (oh, and I tried to model several of my hairstyles after him) and here he was only 15 feet away from me.  Afterwards, they talked to the group of us but I was just freaked out and stood in the back trying to take it all in.  I have never, ever been a fan-boy for celebrity but yeah, here I was freaking the shit out!!  I can’t even remember the songs they performed as it was so surreal and at times I wondered if it happened but yes, it did!  I just happened to be where I was supposed to be and the Thompson Twins were supposed to entertain me on that night.  They were at the top of my 80s musical idols.  I had a love for their music but ever since, ever so more.  Everyone needs their musical, athletic, artistic, whatever it is idols because their talent gets us through things in life but to be able to see them perform in real life is a special experience and it has been the one concert going event (can I even call it that) that has stayed with me until this very day!  As I create a Spotify playlist in their honour, here’s to my musical heroes who I didn’t know were until that night – The Thompson Twins!!

June 21 – one awesome student teacher

332/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As I’ve said on a couple of occasions, one of the greatest professional development opportunities that I have ever had as a teacher is when I was seconded by UBC as Adjunct Teaching Professor.  I taught student teachers how to teach but I got to learn at the same time.  My learning took place when I got to be in their classes to watch them teach.  First year was pretty damn easy as I was tasked with teaching and observing only Business Education teachers and my degree was in Commerce and I had taught, with the exception of Accounting, all the businesses classes under our huge curricular umbrella.  Second year, I was asked to – okay, directed to – observe Social Studies teachers as I also taught Law and Psychology.  I didn’t see any similarities with those subjects and Geography and History or junior Socials but UBC did.  I ended up being in Nikki’s class and faked my knowledge for the first few beginning classes but then soon realized that the subject matter was secondary to Nikki’s actual teaching.  I didn’t realize that in my first year but in that second year watching Nikki, I definitely knew that what you are teaching takes backseat to how you are teaching.  Nikki rocked it.  I couldn’t believe how inventive she was – yes, I have “stolen” a few of her methodologies and have been employing them in my classes today.  Her enthusiasm for teaching and her wanting to learn from me for teaching ideas was refreshing.  We had some great conversations after her classes and I had to choose her as one of the top Student Teachers when it came to awards time because plain and simple, she just blew it out of the park.  I can say that there were a few who were in the program just going through the motions to get their degree and weren’t really into teaching for the sake of teaching but here was Nikki who reaffirmed in me that this is what teaching was – dare I say that I saw myself during my practicum year in Nikki.  Thank you Nikki for being one of those student teachers who reinvigorated an old-timer in his career and for allowing me to see that there are young, passionate teachers out there and when I have to pass over the baton, knowing that there are the likes of you coming into the profession!  Haven’t talked to you recently but so hope some district has scooped you up – here’s to you!!