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!

Advertisements

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 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 5 – Mr Singh

316/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Indian role model growing up?   Not until late elementary school.  There he was – Mr George Singh.  Indian.  Male.  Teaching grade 7.  Thompson elementary – my school.  I was intimidated and in awe at the same time.  I had never seen “myself” anywhere but in blue collar labour jobs.  Here was an Indian man.  Well groomed.  Articulate.  I never spoke to him once.  He transferred to the job while I was either in grade 5 or 6.  Once he made a comment about asking about my dad – and I wasn’t too sure what that was about and thus I kept my distance.  I wanted to and also not to be in his grade 7 class.  I did not end up being in his class.  Towards the middle of grade 7, my mom asked me if I knew of a Mr. Singh at the school?  She then informed me that he was my dad’s cousin!!  What?!  Extended family and we only saw that family at weddings or events on my dad’s side (which was rare).  I wanted to know how she knew that he was at my school and she told me that she had seen him and he mentioned me?!   Although he went by Mr Singh (the traditional Indian Sikh middle name), he was actually George Singh Sangha and upon realizing my (and my sister’s) last name and quick office sleuthing realized who we were.  He wasn’t aware of my dad’s mental condition and thus when he asked about him, he wanted to spark a conversation which I shied away from.  As the years passed on, I would see him occasionally at family functions and we chatted several times.   It was easier being an adult.  He had known that I had also become a teacher and he told me that he was proud of me (and secretly that made me happy).  So here we are several years later and my daughter is in grade 5 at Westwind Elementary.  She comes home to mention that there’s also a “new” older Indian grade 7 teacher!  Mr Singh!!  Uhm wow!  I happen to be at her school to pick her up and who finds me and engages me in a conversation and also mentions his sleuthing in regards to another Sangha – imagine his surprise when the parent on the file was me!  : )  I’m so very glad that Mr. Singh served as a role model that I believe influenced me on some subconscious level – I mean look at my career choice.  I am also glad that I was able to express my gratitude to him in person at a wedding reception telling him of how great it was to have him as a non-traditional role model in the late 70s – and perhaps again on some subconscious level, that is exactly who I am to the young Indo-Canadian youth that I work with!

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!

May 10 – the quirky ones

290/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Left of center.  I’ve heard that about me.  I’ve also heard that about some of the students that I have taught over the years.  I have never taken it as an insult.  I am proud to be far from the norm – yes, as a child I longed to be in the center but got so used to being on the outside that I made it all mine and shifted the view of what center was.  Throughout my career, I have taught those kids who are left of center.  I see myself in them.  I want to be their advocate but more than that, I want them to have a place in my classroom.  I didn’t have that and that’s one of the main reasons why I went into teaching – to make the difference for someone that was rarely extended to me.  I was reminded of that today.  I have had a student in my classes for the last three years.  He is not “special” in that sense of the word but he is different.  He can read social cues but chooses to ignore them.  He participates and is opinionated and says things that at times don’t make traditional sense to the chagrin of his classmates.  I allow him to express himself as there is insight behind his observations but at times, even for myself as teacher, it is draining but I am reminded that everyone has the right to feel a part of the classroom.  Yes, today he took it in a different direction and the dynamic shifted quite quickly but I was cognizant that I had to ensure that his feelings were respected as well as those of others in the class.  It was a difficult task but students like this one are what keep teachers on their toes always thinking a few steps ahead.  I knew which action NOT to take – shut him down completely, reprimand him, talk down to him – those options are limitless but as I noticed him becoming aware of what was going on in the classroom, he started to get embarrassed and withdrew especially because I interjected by telling him to stop as the conversation started to devolve and fellow students were getting riled up.  I knew I had made a mistake in that moment for him and I took it upon myself to find him during lunch to no avail and eventually had a heart to heart after school giving him encouragement, talking about the positives over the last three years but also respecting perspectives of others.  In the end, given his intelligence he was able to understand what I was getting at and I also understood the point he was trying to make – life lesson for both him and myself. Yes, today was a day with a not so great teaching moment but more importantly it was a learning experience.   I have all sorts of students and usually the focus is on the easy ones but the quirky, out there ones are the reason why I went into teaching and those are the students I need to be reminded about as those are the ones that may relate to me and I could make a difference for.

May 2 – biz ed

282/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Have you ever downplayed anything about you?  I realized today that I have been for about 30+ years.  When I am asked what I teach, I rarely if ever mention my Business Education courses – Accounting, Keyboarding etc.  I almost always say Psychology and Marketing.  I reflected today and know exactly why – people often assume that given a Bachelors of Commerce degree in my background and my subject area, I must be intelligent but intelligent in the classic sense of the word.  I am far from that person but I totally relate to their assumptions in that I have/had the same notions about fellow Business teachers.  But today, at a Pro D meeting with my colleagues from the east-side schools from the Business Education arena, I realized that in fact we were all very interesting and did not typify the view one (namely me) has of such teachers;  old, archaic, stuck in their ways, curmudgeonly, lacking a sense of humour, focused, numbers oriented, Business is their life, robotic humans.  In fact all of us – ranging from close to retirement age down to freshly starting our careers, were lively and humourous, cracking jokes and making light of our job situations in times of declining enrolment.  None of us came off as the stereotypical Business Educator.  None of us were complaining.  All of us had personalities.  This reflecting got me to thinking about other Business Educators within the district and outside that I have worked with and yes, I can say that the majority do not fit the stereotype – yes, there are some who do but that’s what makes a stereotype enduring as there will always be people who fit it.  But for those of you outside the Business Educator box, so glad you bring that perspective to our career and broaden the definition of what it is to be a Business Teacher.  No, I’m not ready to start introducing myself as a Business teacher but I might be ready to add that I teach Accounting in addition to Psychology and Marketing 😉

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 15 – time of Grace

265/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  UBC is when I came out of my shell but I was also trying to figure out what type of shell I had been in as well.  I tried many looks – yes, I sported the asymmetrical hair with the funky patterned shirts and neon pants (total 80s guy).  I also tried on personalities but the true, overexcited, loud, fun person eventually surfaced.  During those UBC Commerce years – probably the most conservative of degrees I could have chosen – I met quite a few people and made friends with a few as people as well.  One of the people who was in my option of Marketing was Grace.  I don’t think we ever spoke as I had my own partners for projects and she had her own people.  We were in a couple of required classes together but other than that, she would have been like any other person in the degree – a fleeting memory.  However, two years later, I decided to change paths and get my Education degree.  I did my practicum at Charles Tupper in the Business department and who was a teacher there?   Grace!   She recognized me immediately and started talking to me and I will be honest, I had no clue who she was but feigned recognition.  I think she may have figured it out LOL but it was great having Grace there.  She gave me invaluable advice about teaching and especially about how to work with my practicum teacher sponsors (her co-workers).  At the end of my practicum, I didn’t really think I’d see her again but we kept in touch via email but fast forward two years and I got a long term sub gig at Britannia Secondary for who – yup, Grace!  She was involved in a car accident and I took over her classes pretty close to the start of the school year.  Of course, I had to talk to her almost weekly about the subjects and what I should be doing and that is when we started becoming friends.  I saw her at conferences and we started exchanging Christmas cards, shared child rearing stories and advice about life, immigrant parents – the list went on.  We made efforts to connect back in the day although it’s tougher now as both of us are busy with life.  Thank you Grace for being that mentor that I needed starting off my teaching career and for being a good friend over the years.  Here’s to reconnecting again.