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!

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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!

July 11 – i’ll be good to you

352/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I know there are sayings in regards to being nice to people now because they could come back later in your life to help you or haunt you or something similar.  I have no clue what those sayings are exactly but I get the gist.  I have lived life with this motto for as long as I can remember.  Only once has it ever happened to me but not in the traditional sense of the saying.  Late 90s, I leave my house to head to the gym.  Driving down my street called Riverdale.  At regular speed level and then bam, pow, bang – holy Batman!  I hit the brakes.  I recall a blur in front of my hood, then on my windshield and then over the top of the car and falling off the trunk onto the street through my rearview mirror.  I am in shock.  I am sitting there.  I start to shake.  I look back at the rearview.  It’s a boy.  He’s on the street.  Rivers of blood from his head.  I can’t compute.  What has happened?  My Law 12 teacher’s words come into my head – anytime a driver hits a passenger, the driver is 100% at fault.  I am literally cold.  After what seems to be hours yet only mere minutes, I get out of the car.  I see the car that was coming in the opposite direction.  The male driver and female passenger run out and she yells “We saw everything!!!”.  I’m on the verge of tears as this is it.  The end of my new career as teacher.   Oh, have I forgotten to mention that I live and teach in the same neighbourhood.  Out come running people.  I hear “Mr Sangha???”  “Mr Sangha, what happened?!!”  “Oh my God, Mr Sangha, you hit someone”.  I am embarrassed.   I am upset.  I am still in shock.  My mind races years ahead – me in prison, my kids on the streets.  I’m shaking – oh, yes, I am wearing shorts and a tshirt.  All a blur.  Fire engine, multiple police cars, ambulance and to make matters worse, as they are redirecting traffic, the mother of the child just hit happens to be driving by and yes, sees her son.  Kill me now!  The two witnesses come over and give me hugs.  I don’t understand.  They tell me that they saw the kid run into the street after a ball and knew that I would never see him and that it was not my fault.  They tell the police this.  The police officer tells me that I’m good, I did nothing wrong.  I’m looking at the blood.  The paramedic tells me that the lip bleeds like no other organ.  I am driven home.  I am in shock.  If I drank then – yes, surprise, surprise, I didn’t back then – I probably would have become an alcoholic.  All forgotten.  Six or seven years later, I am teaching Psychology 12.   Ask the students to write a journal entry about a psychological experience that affected them for the rest of their lives.  At home reading and marking the assignment.  As I’m reading Adam’s, I start to freak out.  “I’m playing ball in my friend’s driveway and go get the ball.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a White Honda Civic comes barreling down the street at me.  Takes me out.  I go flying over the car and end up breaking my arm and with some other fractures.  End up in the hospital for a few weeks and off of school for a month.”  I sit at my kitchen table.  Dumbfounded.  I write him a comment – “Let’s talk”.  We do.  He laughs.  I laugh.  We hug it out.  He doesn’t really remember everything but he was told I was the teacher.  He is in my class.  I was scared that he would hold it against me.  He never did.  We had a great year.  You rock Adam.  I needed that.  We affect people.  Positively or negatively.  How we react to that affection is what matters especially when it comes to mistakes.  I am so glad that I had the interaction with you years later.  I am so glad that we got to talk about what took place.  I am so glad that I learned a valuable life lesson.  I could have reacted in all sorts of different ways – was told to sue the family for the damage to the car – bullshit!  I am so glad that you came back into my life and let me move on and realize that my decisions/choices on how I responded came back to me but in positive ways.  Yes, I screwed up your grade 7 year Adam 😉 but you gave me a great life-lesson going forward – be good to people and they will be good to you later on!

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 16 – i need u

327/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  We all need support systems – people to be there for us.  Whether it’s to get us through the tough times or the happy ones, it is amazing when there are people to go through the experiences with.  With this past week’s events with the shooting in Orlando, I have been reading about the outpouring of support and camaraderie that is being shown.  It’s amazing to know that in times of need, people are there whether physically or in spirit – even messages on social media make a difference for people who are not directly affected by events but are still feeling a sense of loss and thus become a part of a larger community.  I love the fact that there are forums and blogs of support also to get through whatever life throws you.  I have a medical condition called sarcoidosis and belong to a few forums.  I don’t contribute but creep to read what people are going through and because of them, I don’t feel alone with my condition when I can see myself in the writings that are taking place.  If not for these community forums, I would only have the advice of my doctor.  This is the same thing when I was going through my separation.  To understand a little more about what I was feeling and especially what my son may be going through, support came both through personal friends and through online communications.  I’m not one for unsolicited advice but I do appreciate true support when I’m looking for it just to get a perspective and today I thank both the online world and real people who have given me information, a sense of community and just the understanding that I need to deal with whatever it is that I’m dealing with.  I hope to rely on y’all in the future because I’m not ever going to be done needing.

June 15 – witness this!

326/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Has anyone said something so profound that it changed the way you think about things?  I’ve had a handful of those significant quotes or sayings and one that really hit home much later in life was what my Accounting teacher said in high school: three things are inevitable:  death, taxes and a car accident but the unknown is how big and bad it’s going to be (I’m paraphrasing of course).  That one thing stayed with me.  Let’s ignore taxes (yes, I’d really like to ignore them) and let’s not talk about death.  That leaves car accidents.  I’ve had many – but save for one, they have all been very minor fender benders!   That one though was the mother of all – I hit a person.  A child.  With my car.  One second I was casually driving along Riverdale Drive and the next I hear a loud thud see something roll across the windshield and over the roof and off the trunk.  I instantly stopped.  I got out.  I saw the car in the opposite direction stop.  The male and female passengers yelling “We saw everything!!”  I was in a complete shock.  My life as I knew it was over.  Or so I thought.   Firetruck, ambulance, police all there in a matter of moments.  Did I say my life was over?  Unbeknownst to me, the witnesses were yelling to me that they saw everything at that I was not at fault.  The boy (who ended up being a student of mine in Grade 12 – yes, another story) ran out of the driveway into the middle of the road and into my car that happened to be passing by.  If not for those witnesses, it would basically have been a long investigation looking at skid marks and my story.  Those witnesses stopped and spent half an hour of their lives to talk to the police and write their story which helped me beyond belief.  I often have thought of them for making an otherwise monumentally stressful situation so much easier.  Why am I remembering and thanking them today – because I was that witness today.  Surreally, I saw a similar incident play out only hours ago.  Instantly I pulled over to give my statement exactly because of what those witnesses had done for me and the driver of the vehicle involved with the biker who just pulled into the road without warning was my neighbour!!  She was beside herself and I remember myself in that same moment.  What those witnesses did for me to ease my anxiety is exactly what I had to do for this driver.  I’d like to think that I would have stopped regardless as would be my legal duty but regardless, those witnesses made me stop my life for 45 minutes and do the right thing just to help someone who didn’t do anything wrong even though they were behind the wheel.  Once again, thank you complete strangers for initially helping me but even more affecting me as a person – never forgotten!

June 9 – rx for life

320/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I am generally a healthy person and try to take care of myself.  I try to be active and watch what I eat.  Yes, like the best of us, I give in to temptation – okay, like the worst of us, a lot of the time 😉  Anything I put into and subject my body to – these are things within my control but many things that afflict the body are things that are beyond one’s control.   Over a decade ago, I somehow contracted a health issue called sarcoidosis.  I was gardening – okay, cutting the lawn and pulling out weeds and was just exhausted.  Went to school the next day and the principal told me to take the afternoon off.  On the third day, I was still tired and went in to see my family doctor who immediately got an xray.  I had a form of walking pneumonia. He put me on meds and immediately got me linked up with a respirologist at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.  Fast forward a decade or more and here I am managing with a compromised immune system and nodules and scar tissues on my lungs – no cure for sarcoidosis, just different meds to see what may help (steroids and inhalers) – no success yet : (  My family doctor has been with me since I was a pre-teen.  He was the one who put me at ease when I was 18 years of age and worried about becoming schizophrenic like my father – he told me since I was asking him the question, I definitely wasn’t as I knew my reality.  He referred me to a support group for family members.  In fact, anytime I have any questions or concerns, he always eases my mind and easily refers me to a specialist who deals in the particular area of concern if need be. He treats me like a family member asking me about my career, my children and also my mom.  I’m sure he does this for all his patients but I feel comfortable in his fatherly presence.  This past month, because of healing and broken ribs and a major flare-up with my sarcoidosis, I have seen him several times.  Alas, I can see him aging and realize he will probably soon retire and give up his practice as his patient hours have also decreased.  Upon writing this gratitude post, I have realized that I definitely will let him know of my gratitude for him being my health care provider and also for being there for my immigrant parents and helping them through their concerns and being patient with them.  I only today have realized how lucky I am to have a doctor who not only cares about you but has time for you.  I raise my cough syrup filled spoon in your honour ; )

June 7 – 50 shades of grey

318/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’m a bit vain.  Yes, I said a bit 😉  It took a lot and a long time to get there but yeah, obsessed with my appearance as an adult is all I can remember.  I definitely know it’s because of the ugly duckling syndrome that I endured as a child and I’m definitely not complaining these days – aren’t I subtle about being the swan today? LOL  But seriously, I have always worried about how I present myself to others and anything to draw a little attention to myself as an adult – in a good way – I did as I was used to drawing attention as a child for the wrong reasons.  Just before the new millennium, I decided to go blonde.  Those of you who know me witnessed that look for a good decade and a half.  I was nervous in the beginning – caramel skinned brown guy going blonde but I went for it and well, strangely it worked for me!  I changed shades – sometimes silver (well before it was a thing), sometimes platinum, sometimes ash – but I kept the blonde as my signature look.  In my 49th year (just under two years ago), I got tired of the trips to the hairdresser for maintenance.  I don’t recall making a conscious effort but just thought I’d let it grow out to see what it looked like.  I cut it short to help the process.  I hated it.  I thought it aged me.  I was forgetting that chronologically, I had already aged.  I remember to this day when the last bit of blonde was cut off the tips and I was fully grey.  Yes, I had gotten used to the grey but I wasn’t happy to have to give up on my wilder ways – I supposed I thought grey meant maturing in personality too, thankfully it didn’t mean that!  The people around me though were great for my ego.  Not a single person told me that grey did not suit me.  I received and still do to this day how my grey flatters me and I need this as on a subconscious level, I wanted to be accepted by others for my appearance and I can admit that. Presently, I have grown out my hair on a dare and have a full on man-bun or a mess of grey curls – sometimes looking like that crazy uncle, or that eccentric, crazy man down the block so I can’t wait to shear it down but I have to thank each and every person who has complimented me on this grey mane.  I know they say that men can rock the grey but I think you also have to accept the grey.  Each of you has made me accept it and allowed me to move into my 50s with dignity and not trying to look like I was desperately trying to hang on to my youth by continuing to dye it blonde.  Thanks for the love!

June 4 – quips and quotes

315/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I can’t jump on the Muhammad Ali bandwagon.  I never watched boxing.  Yes, I knew who he was but nothing more than that until I saw some of his quotes surfacing on my Facebook feed as well as on internet pages in the last couple of days.  I am not a guy who generally likes quotes.  I am not a teacher who has motivational posters in his classroom although I am a fan of the self-created metaphor.  I don’t really have a motto that I live my life by.  I am agnostic; thus, not influenced by any doctrines.  I’m a very apolitical person generally unless there is something that I need to be educated about.  I take pride in being myself and trying to be a better person along this journey of life.  One thing that I was told growing up was that no one would look out for you except yourself – basically, you are #1 (or that’s the way I interpreted it).  I don’t currently recall who had said that to me and I don’t even believe anyone in particular said it explicitly but perhaps it was several people in my life who had interpolated that quote in order for me to get through some of the tougher times in life.  I may have embraced it a little too literally as I am the first to espouse my own virtues but why not? 🙂  As I read Muhammad Ali’s quotes, there’s a lot of them all about self-empowerment – some may say that that is a form of vanity but I’d wholeheartedly disagree.  If you don’t believe in yourself and take pride in your accomplishments, why should others?  There’s definitely some sort of charisma that comes across when someone has a solid sense of self.  Yes, there is of course a blurred line between self-confident and cockiness but I think that line is decided by the receiver and not the sender.  I am glad that I was given the advice to believe in myself as it has greatly helped me overcome the obstacles that life has thrown at me.  And just maybe I might start opening up to and living my life by other quotes/mottos – got any good ones for me? 😉