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!

May 25 – real world learning

305/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I went through the motions.  At UBC.  During my Commerce degree.  I did as I was asked.  Didn’t question anything.  All textbook work.  No course really inspired me.  I knew I needed a future and got my education.  And they fed me my education in the traditional way – lecture and assignments.  Until my 4th year (of a 5 year program).  This was the year I declared my major (Marketing) and actually enjoyed some of the things I was learning.  However, still most of the courses were instructor led.  It wasn’t until I was in a course led by this funky diva (well before En Vogue coined the term) named June.  A statuesque older black woman who I’m imagining was a visiting lecturer as I don’t recall her being faculty.  She taught one of the elective Marketing classes and we had to apply what we learned – no, not in a case study or simulation but working with a real car manufacturer.  I can’t recall which one but it was a major player and they were in the test phase of introducing a new model on the market and our class created marketing campaigns for their launch to be evaluated by executives.  This was a first for me and something that I haven’t forgotten as it has permeated my teaching to this very day.  I try to organize real world learning whenever I can.  I am not saying that I don’t lecture or give notes and assignments but I also get the students fully immersed when it comes to learning.  From my Psychology students working with Kindergartners and Grade 2s applying Piaget and Kohlberg’s theories to my Marketing students creating campaigns for local Steveston restaurants to my Business students opening an hour long business venture competing with other groups and being judged on sales made.  Yes, this is a nightmare for me to organize and perhaps not appreciated by all students in the moment but I know that once they reflect, the experience was invaluable – that’s the way I felt in June’s class.  I will continue to teach in this manner until I retire and I have June to thank for instilling this sentiment in me!

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.

March 10 – insight is right

229/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   Your children’s teachers – so many of them over the years that one can barely remember them all if any especially if you have more than one child. There are awesome teachers and then the not so awesome ones. Some give you insight into your child and others need a little insight 😉 We, for the most part, have been very fortunate in the teachers our children have had. I can’t remember which teacher said this but her comment has stayed with me since its utterance. Back in elementary, my son at home was all over the place – rambunctious, asserting his role by talking back, defying authority by not doing what he was told in the moment, leaving his books and toys around – you name it, he did it. Of course, this was the pinhole perspective of him that I had until I went to parent/teacher conferences. The teacher started by asking us if I had any questions and I just asked her if he was the same boy at school that he I had at home. She told me that he was respectful and kind, considerate of others, helps with putting things away etc etc. My jaw dropped and I honestly thought she had confused up her files and was talking about the wrong student. When I told her I wished that boy was at home, this is where her comment hit me. She told me that you’d rather have that crazy, wild child at home and an angel outside rather than the other way around where a parent has no clue what the child is like outside because of the falsity at home. In that moment, I got it. She was right. I can handle him – I’m his parent but the greatest compliments I have received are about how good and respectful he is when he is outside of the home. Even this year at parent teacher conferences, his marks were all over the place but every single teacher commented on how nice, humourous and overall a good son we have. So thank you elementary teacher for giving me that powerful insight that has stayed with me since that parent-teacher conference. Teach on!

February 25 – i got schooled again

216/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Today’s person I met just very recently but I had to include them in on this list as the comment they made changed my entire teaching philosophy and the way I look at things going forward. Earlier in these posts, I talked about the white boys in my classes and in the weeks since, one of them made a comment to me in response to my trying to motivate him to spend more time on and add more details to the assignment he was working on in class. I was thinking of a number of ways to motivate him when he simply said – “I’m okay with this.” I was taken aback. I have never been told that. I queried and he said that he took the time to do it in class – which he probably wouldn’t have done if it was for homework and he was satisfied with what he did and willing to accept the mark he got. I was floored and although I said he could do better, he said he knew that but this was good enough for him. I stood there dumbfounded not because he didn’t take my advice but because he knew what he was doing and he was satisfied. He understood the assignment, did it to the point where he was okay with his work and submitted it. At that moment, I realized that I was imposing my standards on him. There is one thing to motivate but another to have standards that don’t necessarily fit every student. I was trying to raise the bar for him but he was comfortable in grabbing it where it was and bringing it down to where he wanted and leaving it at that. Yes, one could argue that I should be pushing him and trying to help him succeed but he’s not failing. He is in grade 12 and he knows what he is doing.  Plus, unwarranted antagonism because of some ideal I have is not necessary. And before you start criticizing my teaching strategy – and don’t even consider it if you are a non-teacher 😉 – I know what I am doing. There are other important things to work on and grades are definitely not the be all and end all and I needed to be reminded of that but I also needed to be made aware of the fact that students take ownership for their own learning and they are entitled to make those decisions at the grade levels I teach. Thank you “S” for bringing a much needed awareness to my teaching.

February 15 – behind your computer

206/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I am literally exhausted – teacher talk: four on the floor with no prep; working on various committees, prepping any and every spare minute I get and we are only into the start of week 3 of a new semester. This is just my professional life – haven’t even delved into my personal life but needless to say lots to do at home as well. So today, I started procrastinating and started to just surf mindlessly. Ended up on ratemyteacher.com which is exactly as the name suggests – a site I haven’t hit for a few years and it looks like no student has commented on me in that time either – the novelty must have worn off. Yes, I know that the majority of commenters are students who may feel that they were done wrong by and take it out on social media especially under the veil of anonymity but that’s not necessarily the case and sometimes the criticisms ring true. So, I started to read my comments from 2010 (the last ones) and prior and I can say that I needed them. Yes, there were a couple of negatives and I allow for that as everyone is entitled to their opinion and the comments got me to think about the things that were said; however, the majority of the comments were positive and I so needed those comments today to get me through and just realize why I do what it is that I do. I appreciate feedback – both positive and negative (as long as the latter is constructive and not on something I can’t control for) as it does get me to be a better teacher and even though the Internet is unmonitored for the most part, it is a medium that allows for dialogue and in this day and age, one must use it and pay attention to it as it does have some value to it. Thank you anonymous feedback givers – your critiques, compliments and constructive criticism is much appreciated.

February 12 – the white boys

203/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Do not take the title of this post offensively – if you are an educator in the lower mainland, it will make sense but even more than that, it is a true gratitude post. So here I am starting second semester of teaching at a school that is very, very multicultural in a city that is very, very multicultural. My last teaching class of the day is very male-centric – maybe 5 girls to about 15 boys and of those boys, the majority are white Caucasians. Now, if you are a teacher in the city and hood that I live in, that’s a rarity and also a bit of a nightmare as the ethnic boys and girls are usually the star pupils who just do as they are told and get the work to a standard above and beyond what one could imagine.   The white boys – and if you are easily offended over ethnic stereotypes just stop reading – do what they have to do to get the bare minimum credit. Which classes do these young gentlemen take – the electives of course and which ones do they tend to select – the ones that they will get an easy pass. Here lies my dilemma – I am an elective but I don’t give easy passes yet I get these boys in my classes. But, I absolutely love them! They get me to think outside the box, redesign lessons and challenge my thinking. I can not be complacent in a class dominated by these young males. I have to think about ways to motivate them which keeps me on my toes. Yes, I could easily just give up on them and focus on the students who want to be in my class or I could try my hardest to get them “moved” out of my class but that is not the teacher I am. These guys actually drive me to change up the way I teach – get rid of my complacency. In fact, these boys give me insight on my own son – yes, before you get all uppity – my son is a brown boy who is actually a white boy…we live in affluent Steveston and he was the only brown boy in his elementary school from Kindergarten until grade 6 so for all intents and purposes, I got a white son – so back to what I was saying, I have a greater understanding of the way he is and works based on the boys in my class. I mean, several times have I found myself chuckling to what my son says that is the same as my students or vice versa. Although, I may be the first to “complain” about my white boys, I actually wish no different as I love having them in my class and getting me to rethink the way I teach and giving me the reality of what real teaching is. Thank you white boys (meaning real students who understand school is not the be all and end all) for making me that much better of a teacher but even greater than that, making my classes that much more engaging, dynamic and interesting!

January 21 – failure is an option

181/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. As I previously mentioned, I have been on a UBC bent for a few of my recent gratitude posts and on top of that been having discussions with my students about not being perfect. Tonight, all that is culminating into a post about the professors who failed me in three of five courses in my first semester of my first year of university. Yes, you may say that I failed myself but I will disagree and you will understand as you read. Yes, you may say that I wrote about this topic back at 70/365 but that was in relation to my counselor at UBC believing in me – tonight is in honour of actually failing and learning from it. Because of bullying, I put all my energy into school work as I had no other social outlet in high school. I did not have friends and I did not play any sports. Yes, I worked at McDonald’s and worked hard there. However, in school, I exceled. I received no marker lower than a B in high school in any of my classes. I wouldn’t say that I found it easy but with effort, I was able to do well. I even scored well in PE classes as there was written components that offset the physical aspects. When I entered first year university, I thought it would be a breeze. Being in Advanced English in Grade 12, I opted for regular English 100 at UBC thinking I would sail through that class and took a Statistics class as well as Economics, Anthropology and Psychology. At the end of the semester, I ended up failing three of the classes. I honestly thought I understood what I was doing and when I wrote the exams and received my year end marks, I did not give the professors what they were looking for. Not until later years did I realize that high school had spoon fed me and here I was at university not only left holding the spoon but it was a fork and required much different maneuvering for success. At the time, I will be honest, I cried and came home and lost it in front of my mother. Never having failed academically, I thought my world would come crashing down and that I would be disowned and I was a big disappointment. Although she didn’t show me any physical comfort (that hug still eludes me), she was very supportive in her words and asked if I could take the classes over – something I didn’t even consider. Of course, I ended up getting my degree but the greatest memory I have is of failing. It was so very necessary for me as it taught me one of the biggest life lessons – I am human and I am not perfect. I share my story with all my students and I have those professors to thank. I am glad they failed me and I didn’t know I needed it. Failure is an option as long as you learn from it. Failure also builds your character and I also needed that. I didn’t realize how much of an impact that first year and those first failing marks had on my character but I do owe it all to those three professors.

January 8 – the people behind the scenes

168/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I am a big believer in field trips/excursions as I do know for a fact that students will remember more from those experiences than anything I could actually teach them from a book.   To be able to actually do or see in the field rather than just to be lectured about the same material is so much more powerful. I have had the opportunity to teach Law, Psychology and Marketing and I made it a point to include some type of outside activity to aid in the comprehension of the material: from visits to the Law Courts and conducting a Mock Trial at the courts to traveling to different markets/retail establishments to see how Business activities take place to visiting elementary and preschool classrooms to get a first hand account of Child Development. As well, the value of guest presenters coming to my classes to share their experiences from Bankers, Former Convicts, Accountants, Mothers, Entrepreneurs and the like – the students have received invaluable information from the source. As a teacher, there is no way that I can provide them with all the experiences and I am the type of teacher who wants to go that extra mile. Does arranging for speakers and field trips take time? Oh you bet but I have been very fortunate that the people who have organized the experiences from the elementary/preschool teachers at McKay, Thompson and Lee to the women at the Law Courts, the bankers from Vancity and Coast Capital, to the people at Lonsdale Quay, the lists are endless. If not for all the people who have allowed and continue to allow my students access to their expertise, I would not be able to provide the type of educational experience that I pride myself in. Thank you to each and everyone of you who over the past two decades has helped me as a teacher. I really owe you big time!