July 13 – judgment day

354/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  You are reading a book or watching a movie and kind of enjoying it when all of a sudden someone comes up to you and tells you how much they don’t like it or the problem with the plot or how it could have been “done” differently to make it turn out so much better.  Ever happened to you?  Ever happened but in relation to a person?  This is the reality of the high school teacher.  Many teachers and administrators have an opinion about a kid that they have taught/had an experience with.  They feel that they must share that opinion with you – that they must warn you/let you know the perils you might face with that student in your class.  In all of my 25 years of teaching, I have never, ever let anyone’s opinions or thoughts dictate how I deal with students.  Back in the 90s at Burnett, I finally got to teach grade 12 students in my electives of Law, Psychology, Marketing and Tourism.  What I loved about that course load was that I had the whole gamut in my class – from the bright, keeners to the ones who were waiting for me to impress them to the ones who were just put in the class to the ones who wanted to learn but were to cool to admit it.  Tanya was one of these girls – probably in the latter category 😉  I liked Tanya.  Found her to be very intelligent and was always the most respectful to me.  However, other teachers and the administration did not see her this way.  They would harp on about her attendance – let’s just say that she usually showed up to one class – mine – and we will leave it at that.  They talked about how she was a bad influence.  They talked about how she was not a good community member.  I didn’t understand why they were telling me this.  Was I supposed to side with them?  Was I supposed to use that to judge her abilities in my class?  Tanya did well in my class and was always a positive force in the class – maybe it was an act but give that girl an Oscar then because I totally thought (and know) she was genuine with me.  However, towards the end of the year – her grade 12 year – she was a bit dejected and I sensed it.  I asked her what was up and she told me.  The administration, who had previously suspended her, now decided to punish her by not allowing her to walk across the stage for valedictory for something she did outside of the school.  I told her that she had every right to go – this was not dinner/dance/prom but the most important event for her parents.  The culmination of her public school education.  The night her parents got to see their daughter walk across the stage.  Tanya had already decided that she was not going to go because she thought it was a done deal.  I told her what her mother had to do – and I’ll put it out right here – to contact the Superintendent and make the case that any other punishment could suffice but this one was too harsh – not negating the consequences but reassessing which ones would be the best.  Tanya didn’t feel it would work and I actually wasn’t too sure myself but I just felt that one can’t make a judgment call because certain people see a person in one way and decide to punish them in other ways.  Well, Tanya walked that stage – no strutted that stage and dealt with other consequences but she reinforced a greater lesson for me – do not allow other people to tell you how to deal with, live with, interact with, relate with, get along with, deal with, just be with others because they see them in a way.  Do not allow people to put their opinions of others onto you.  Make your own calls about people based on the way they treat you and how they deal with you and go from there.  I always did that but I needed Tanya and her situation to just validate it for me!  And just so everyone knows, Tanya today is an amazing mom who is way beyond that girl in high school.  Thank you Tanya for reinforcing in me that judging a person based on their interactions with you is the only way to judge a person if you must judge them to begin with!

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May 28 – grad date

308/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  It’s that time of year in the high schools – graduation for grade 12s and all that comes with that: final exams, valedictory ceremonies, dinner and dance, etc.  Looking back at my own grade 12 year, it was a non-event as I wasn’t too concerned about the various functions as I wasn’t going to attend.  I didn’t really have close bonds with any of my classmates.  I decided to go to the valedictory (getting my diploma) as that was more for my parents although unlike today’s events held at grand ballrooms, ours was in the school gym!!  LOL Yes, as I said — a non-event!  I had resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to attend the actual grad (dinner and dance) as first of all I didn’t really have a crew and second of all, everyone had dates and limo rides and well, not being with the in crowd or any crowd, it was easier to just stay home.  About two to three weeks away from the event, a co-worker from McD’s and fellow grade 12 named Monette asked me if I was going to go to grad.  I said no.  She said she wasn’t going to go but we should just go.  I was dead set against it but then other people from McD’s suggested that we should go and it would be so much fun.  Monette didn’t give up and I ended up going with her and her friends.  Paid for the ticket and limo share.  Last minute tuxedo rented – cringeworthy (white with black accents).  Corsage bought for Monette.  Off to the Hotel Vancouver – I think that’s where it was or maybe I’m getting very confused with the countless graduation dinners I’ve chaperoned as teacher.  Did I have fun?  Hell yes!  I owe it all to Monette for convincing me to go.  I even went to the after-party!!  Two grad events in one night (second one not school sanctioned of course 😉 )  If not for Monette, I think I would have always regretted not having gone to grad dinner & dance.  I was finally a part of the grad class and had shared memories.  Do I want to see pictures of myself then – uhm no, seeing the one on my mom’s fridge still after all these years is enough!  🙂  Thanks Monette for the push I needed and thank you for being my grad date!

May 26 – time of need

306/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Today is anniversary of my dad’s passing.  It has been 3 years.  I am not ready to write about him (that will be done next Tuesday on his birthday giving me time to think about the gratitude post).  Tonight I want to honour all the people who came out to give their heartfelt condolences during that time.  We knew it was going to happen as he was hospitalized and immobile for over a year and it was no way to live out your final days but that is neither here nor there.  All the friends and relatives who came and helped us with the arrangements and the Punjabi traditions around someone’s passing were greatly appreciated.  All the people who helped my mom get through it by literally supporting her during her time of need.  All the cousins who had already gone through a similar experience and figuratively and literally held our hands through the process.  My school board for allowing me two weeks of paid leave for funeral and grieving alleviating that aspect of stress.  Friends’ kind words and encouragement through that time.  I had never experienced a death of a family member until I was well into my 40s and regardless of age, one is never prepared especially losing an immediate family member.  I am very glad that I had people to fall back on who gave support in more ways than one.   I had done my best to support my extended family when they had lost an immediate family member but now I have more compassion and understanding from going through it myself.  The shock and subsequent grieving around losing someone is hard but the people in your life can make the process a little more bearable and to each and every person who was there for me, my sisters and my mom, I thank you.

April 18 – latin lessons

268/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Back in 1991, I was enrolled in the teacher education program at UBC as a student teacher.  I loved it.  I tried hard and the rewards paid off.  The practicum wasn’t that difficult for me as I had great advisors and although I did have a couple of unique experiences that I’ve written about such as never being evaluated by my advisor ;), I learned a great deal about education but even more about people.  One of the people that I met only briefly during a spring course was a Latin guy from someplace in South America but he had a lasting impact on me although sadly I don’t remember his name and never kept in touch (we were not in the days of Facebook back then).  He was a fellow student teacher in my Anthropology class and we, with two others, ended up working together on our final culminating project.  We decided to conduct an anthropological study on Graduation as a Rite of Passage.  Here we were filming the graduation ceremony at my practicum school with interviews being completed with students, teachers and parents when my fellow partner told me that this was all new to him.  I was in shock to say the least!?  He explained that in his country, they didn’t celebrate graduation in this way – it was a non-event.  This whole process was foreign to him but fascinating.  I didn’t know how to respond but then asked him to be a part of our project as a subject even though he was a part of our group.  I told the other group members and our project took a slight but important turn – assuming that people were familiar with a concept.  That was the first time I realized that I saw things a little too ego-centrically at time and that people may not be familiar with my frame of reference.  It was an important lesson for me and one that stays with me to this day when I’m in my classroom – people don’t necessarily know what you think they may know and to be aware of it.  Yes, we ended up getting a perfect score on the project because of the anthropological twist to our study but the more valuable learning took place during the process thanks to my Latin project partner and for that I am forever grateful!

February 27 – hurray for Hollywood

218/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s Oscar night. No, I’m not at a party watching – actually, in my pjs drinking wine and watching Walking Dead live as the Academy Awards are being PVRed; however, I do love movies though. Movies provide me with a form of escapism in the crazy life that I lead. Yes, very fortunate to be living the live of privilege that affords me the luxury of watching movies that move me in a myriad of ways. I can’t even fathom not having movies in my life whether they are being viewed on the big screen, the small screen or even the smaller screen of my ipad or the teeny tiny screen of my phone. I wasn’t allowed to watch movies as a youngster so I missed out on a lot of defining moments in my childhood but I have made up for it since. For all the actors, directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, etc etc, I thank you for taking me on journeys that aren’t even rivalled by my own imagination: space adventures, dystopian landscapes, romantic journeys, terrifying moments in the fetal position, horror nightmares, feelgood moments that replay on and on, tug at the heartstrings moments where I keep my manliness by pretending the tear is actually just a yawn tear (you know what I mean!!). Yes, not a traditional gratitude post but a gratitude post nonetheless. Thank you for allowing me that escape that I need every so often from the daily grind!

January 19 – getting my tradition on

179/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. My family background is quite diverse. My dad’s side of the family is smaller and although they are from the Punjab region of India and Sikhs in their beliefs, the physical proximity of my dad’s village is closer to the Himachal Pradesh area of India (foothills of the Himalayas) which is predominantly Hindu and many of their beliefs have been filtered down and embraced in my dad’s family even though they are Sikh. I am more than a bit of a skeptic when it comes to religion and religious traditions – yes, heresy in some people’s minds – and have a difficult time believing in and observing some of the ceremonial customs that I must participate in. Upon various trips to India, I have had to walk barefoot through mud to a temple to make offerings, I had to take a 3 day pilgrimage up a mountain with my mother and uncle to the Chintpurni temple, I had to have my head sheared (I refused but did compromise), I had to bathe in water that I knew would never pass a sanitation test here in Canada, I had to sit in the back of a crowded truck full of people with no personal space whatsoever on a week long tour of temples, I had to dance with Hijra/Khusras – the list goes on. However, even though I fight the cultural obligations around religion and ethnic tradition that I must partake in, I realize that they have meaning to my family and thus, I honour them by (albeit reluctantly) doing what is expected of me. The more I reflect on it, the more I know that the Indian traditions and beliefs of especially my dad’s family have had a positive impact on the man that I have become and I can appreciate (whether I agree with them or not) what believing in and respecting does for self, family and community. Thank you to my dad’s family for instilling in me the values of Mother India!