July 16 – let my personality talk

357/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ll be the first to admit it, most of the Professional Development opportunities that are provided at the school level don’t usually meet most teachers’ needs.  We are in a session listening (being talked at) and I am often left wondering how the subject matter benefits my teaching practice.  Because I had this sentiment, I took upon the role of our school’s Pro D chair so that there would be opportunities that would appeal to more of the teachers as a whole.  One of the best sessions, in my opinion, was one of the earliest ones around personality types and how certain types of people interact and are either energized or drained by other personality types.  Rosa, a fellow teacher and Pro D committee member, said that she would conduct the 90 minute session.  I will be honest – I was nervous as I didn’t know how the session would play out as the staff might not take a fellow staff member as seriously as a speaker brought in for a specific topic.  I also felt that “I know this stuff” since I taught Psychology and yes, I knew the stuff but Rosa brought a whole different twist to personality types and really changed my understanding.  I listened intently to her as did the rest of the staff and we participated in the activities to eventually find our personalities and people similar to us on staff.  As I walked over to my “extrovert, loud, energized by others, jump to big ideas, small details come later” personality, there was the female drama teacher.  Of course we would be alike!! : ) However, that was not what surprised me – I looked around at the other groups, especially the groups that were directly opposite of my personality type and I found myself nodding.  But I was nodding at what was explained by Rosa during the session and how my big personality could be too much for their personality type and I was nodding as it all made sense to me.  Although I understood the different types, I did not fully understand the interactions that take place between personality types and how, for example, someone like me could easily be frustrated with the personality type who is meticulous over facts or vice versa.  This session also helped me better understand my students and how I could actually be way too intense for some – something I really wasn’t cognizant of and just assumed they would have to get used to me.  No, I won’t be changing up my personality to please others but because of Rosa, I do understand that I can tweak my interactions and/or have a better understanding of why I may rub people a certain way and why they do the same to me.  Thanks Rosa for giving me a great perspective on something I thought I knew which not only is useful in my professional life, but also in my personal life.  Good thing too that we have similar personality types ; )

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July 14 -it’s how you say the words

355/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Most of you are probably not aware of the following about me:  I have a speech impediment.  I stutter.  I grew up with it and it was much worse back when I was in elementary.  Oh yeah, if you have been reading these gratitude posts and know about my childhood – just add one more thing in the mix to be bullied about 😉  In my case, the thing that made my stuttering much worse was if someone noticed it and reacted to it and I noticed that reaction – well, my brain was thrown into flux and I would be stuck on a particular word and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get past it.  That was the thing – I wasn’t supposed to get past it, I was supposed to switch tactics for my form of stuttering.  My speech pathologist, who I totally don’t remember but had one of the biggest influences on my speech impediment, gave me two pieces of advice.  First, stop the moment I was getting stuck on a word and immediately think of a synonym or a couple of words having the same meaning.  Most of you who know me probably don’t realize I do that – at times, I try to feign looking contemplative but I probably come off as a bit slow but I’m okay with it as it is giving me that breathing room to continue on speaking.  It’s much harder to do in a classroom when I am teaching and that is where I notice my stuttering even moreso.  This is where my speech pathologist’s second piece of advice came in handy – tell people about my condition.  I haven’t really told friends.  Only immediate family know (like my sister and mother and a few cousins and aunts).  I guess you as reader now know.  However, I tell all of my classes/students about my stuttering because early on in my career, I kept it a secret and when it would happen, I would hear snickering and of course, that added to my embarrassment which in turn increased my stuttering and I would be stuck on a word for 30 seconds to a minute.  Now, I take the bull by the horns and let the students know what my inability is.  I tell them that it’s not if it will happen, it’s when and when it does, please don’t make me aware of it as I know what’s happening and will quickly try to correct myself with a synonym.  Most often, I’m pretty quick at it but other times, I have to consciously stop, refocus and start again and I honestly can say that I haven’t had a student in the last decade or so get me flustered because they have empathy for my speech impediment.  Thank you to my speech pathologist for the two greatest pieces of advice that have helped me so much in life and career!

July 5 – facing challenges

346/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve mentioned on several occasions that working at UBC for three years with adults who were becoming teachers (student teachers) was the greatest professional development opportunity I had for my own teaching practice.  I not only instructed these men and women (ranging from their early 20s to late 50s) in methodologies but also viewed and supported many of them during their respective practicums.  The greatest challenge for me was in this latter area as sometimes I would not see eye to eye with the classroom instructor in that they thought the student teacher was not up to par; however, in hindsight, that was the greatest growth for me as I was challenged to work with two different adults and offer suggestions while trying to maintain relations with both parties.  Two of my – yes, I still refer to the student teachers as mine 😉 – student teachers that I really enjoyed working with were D and M (from two different years).  They were both men with young families.  They both came into teaching for all the right reasons.  With both guys, I had great conversations and I also had a lot of respect for them in changing their respective careers in which they were making much more than a starting teacher but deciding to go with their passion and enter teaching.  I was D’s and M’s practicum supervisor and got to see them teach in the classroom.  Although they were at two different schools, at two different times, they both ended up with sponsor teachers who had these lofty expectations in regards to work load, revisions, classroom management etc (perhaps forgetting what it was to be a student teacher so long ago).  Both of them rose to the challenges they faced but at times not to the satisfaction of their school advisors.  These two situations presented me with some of my greatest learning during my entire time at UBC.  I knew both D and M would go on to be great teachers and I recall having several conversations with them about their own expectations but to put those aside and just to get through the practicums.  I also learned how to be a support system for them and to give advice especially when I did not agree with the critiques.  I honed my diplomacy skills working with the advisors, refined my motivational skills and really worked on my people skills.   I didn’t know it at the time that all this was taking place for me as I just wanted the two of them to have successful practicums and in the end, they both did and ended up with jobs.  I am pretty sure that both of them wouldn’t have wanted the practicums they had but I also think they are better teachers as a result.  I am virtually positive that they helped me during their practicums as I’m sure that wasn’t their goal at the time but both D and M made me into a better educator.  I thank you two and I hope you enjoy teaching as much as I have and do!

July 3 – where my girls at?

344/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by females.  Born in New Westminster, my mom just 19 would stay with her aunts and nieces in Vancouver while my dad was at work.  I was told that I was passed from female cousin/aunt to female cousin/aunt as they were all older and I was the new toy.  I was with them for about the first four years of my life.  Nary a male around.  Growing up in Richmond, my own siblings and first cousins were born and they were all female.  I stayed with my aunts, sister and cousins while my mom worked.  Once again, usually the only male child around.  I can admit that because of my earlier nurturing, I have an ease with females that eludes many a male.  In high school, I related to the females who would say that they found it easy to get along with males as fellow females didn’t get them.  I felt this way with males but once I hit university and found my stride that all changed and I easily made friendships with my male counterparts just as easily as I did with the females.  I recall sitting down at a lunch table with a few female staff members who were already engaged in conversation.  I gleaned that they had an informal top 5 list of male staff members that “creeped them out”.  I was taken aback – no, not at the list, but if I had ranked!!?  I asked them as much and I was told that I could never, ever end up on such a list.  Phew!  Then of course I had to know who made it and was told and given an explanation for each and I realized that I was the antithesis of every single guy on the list based on their characteristics and qualities that made these women (and I suppose most women) uncomfortable.  Even tonight, there was a mini work reunion of sorts and it ended up being four females and myself and yes, when I initially heard about the guest list, I was missing the male camaraderie but moments into the festivities, friendship and ease took over and once again, I was in my element with these ladies cracking jokes and just reminiscing.  Thanks to all the females in my life when I was a young child as you totally shaped me into the man I am today allowing the females who come into my life today to appreciate the man I am and I thank you ladies as well for being a part of my life and accepting me into your fold.  Here’s where my girls are at!

July 2 – delineation

343/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   Initially I thought it would be awkward to have my kids going to school in the same district and early on it was.  During my daughter’s kindergarten year, the teacher released our daughter to my mother who unbeknownst to us, came to pick her up.  There were only two of us who were supposed to pick her up – my wife and myself – and well, we were both freaking out.  Yes, the teacher was frantic too and after a couple of hours, we finally had figured out that my mother had taken our daughter to our house – after several phone calls to other students and one remembering a lady picking her up and my daughter going willingly.  Because I complained about what happened to the principal, I was reprimanded by an official as I was a teacher first and should not be disparaging other teachers??!!  Uhm, what??  I argued that I was a parent first when it came to my child and I was not disparaging anyone but thinking about the whereabouts of my child.  Not once were my feelings acknowledged as a parent and how I must have been feeling.  Bureaucratic rhetoric was spewed.  The conversation went back and forth until I said that I could easily go to the media.  I wasn’t planning to and it was an idle threat but I was so very angry that my job was to supercede my life as a parent.  I calmed down and repeated that I would do the same thing if it were to happen next time; however, I realized that I also had to create some boundaries.  That type of colossal incident aside, I knew there would be situations where I might come into conflict with fellow teachers in regards to teaching ideologies or grading practices or whatever the case may be.  From that moment on, whenever it came to parent/teacher critiques (moreso in elementary I have noticed than in secondary), my wife would go into those meetings.  She would give her thoughts and advice on what was and was not working for both my daughter and later my son.  I took most of the parent teacher interviews in high school which were (for my daughter) and are (for my son) easy going conversations.  No, I am still not happy as to what took place and how it was “resolved” by the powers that be but I am backhandedly acknowledging you for delineating roles and for me to know to where I as teacher and I as parent stood.  Yes, you definitely had an impact on me (not necessarily what I expected) but I hope I also had an impact on you as to what it means to be a parent and a teacher in the same district.

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!!

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 20 – 12s

331/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  So here we are at the end of another school year.  Sadly, they are going way too fast and becoming like blurs which means I’m aging real fast (only 6 years away from retiring full pension – yikes!!).  The thing that keeps me going though is the grade 12s that I teach.  I love having intelligent, insightful conversations for the most part and I also love the fact that they get my sense of humour and I absolutely love pushing the educational envelope and they love ripping it open to get at the content.  I give props to my elementary comrades – I could never do that job.  First of all, I don’t like being touched without my consent – thus, having all these young hands pulling and prodding me would drive me crazy and second and more importantly, my sarcasm would be wasted on them and of course they would go home crying and I’d be fired 😉  Now these grade 12s – they amaze me with their talent and knowledge and insight.  I mean this year I taught a guy who was a  wicked videographer, a guy who just said it like it was, the girl who became the second person ever to score 100% on the psych final paper, the girl who was the psyvivor winner who played it amazingly well, the braniac accounting student…the list goes on and they were all in grade 12.  Each and every year, I am inspired and my love for teaching increases that much so.  I am already looking forward to next year’s crop of grade 12s and what they will bring to my classes as I have taught several of them in junior grades.  Yes, I have won a lottery in life to be able to wake up every day and go to work in a job that I absolutely love and a big part of that is the Grade 12s that I get to work with!  Happy grad to this year’s crop, and happy lives to my former Grade 12s and I can’t wait to work with my future Grade 12s!  I throw my proverbial grad cap in the air in your honour!

June 19 – father figure

330/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  It’s dad’s day.  The day when male role models/caregivers/fathers/father figures are being recognized for their part.  Yes, I’m the first to say that moms are way important overall for children but if the dad is in the picture, he also matters and makes a difference.  Dads can be grand-dads and uncles, brothers and cousins especially in this day and age.  For all those fathers out there that may not be in their kids’ lives daily but do try, kudos to you.  For all those awesome fathers who are there for their kids, same on you.  And for those guys who are stepping up and being “dad” (whatever that may mean), well major props for you.  Yes, I’m second fiddle to my kids’ mom and I totally understand that bond.  My kids don’t necessarily appreciate me in the same way and I get it – especially with the angsty teenager – oh how I miss those elementary days with hand-made crafts and big hugs 😉   However, I was the same way and didn’t realize the value of my dad until much later.  Yes, he wasn’t around literally and figuratively but he did the best he could given his circumstances.  Thank you to him and to all the uncles who stepped in and helped out my mom to get us raised.  Most of you were not “real” uncles in the traditional sense of the word as you were more friends of the family or distant relatives but you were at times more real than my biological uncles and I truly appreciate you being there for assisting the family.  This one also goes out to my mom who was my dad for most of that time – took on both roles and yes, it was tough but you did the best you could and that’s not forgotten.  I know I’m not the best of dads by far as I didn’t have a consistent father figure to model myself but I try.  Hopefully one day, I have the same fatherly connections that I see out there in the social media world and will eventually measure up to my kids’ expectations but until then, I will keep on keeping on and try to get this dad thing right!  Cheers to all the dads!