July 22 – U

363/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Wow, only 3 more gratitude posts left including this one!!  When I started this journey a year ago, I was a little nervous as to if I would have 365 people to thank.  I didn’t want it to come down to posts such as thanking my mailman for the flyers he delivers in that they were the ones that led me on to some awesome deal!! ; )  Early on in these posts, I started hearing from friends that so and so had made “the list”.  I didn’t understand what that was until I was told that it was my “gratitude list”.  That put some pressure on me to say the least as there was now a “list”.  I didn’t want it to be a list and I didn’t want it to be some type of contest.  Then I heard that some people mentioned they were in the 80s and others were in the 200s!  I do have to make it clear that I haven’t had an order as to who I thank and thus whatever number gratitude post it was has no relation to ranking.  Most posts are the night before or a couple of days before.  Yes, I saved my dad for his birthday as I did with my children for theirs, my mom was first because well she is my mom but save for them and the final two gratitude posts, no one had a day or a number.  The list by the end of Sunday is far from complete.  I could thank another 365 people who got me to where I am today and this is what today’s gratitude post is about – to all of the people I didn’t name and there are hundreds of you that have impacted me!  So many former students, co-workers past and present, family members, inlaws, bosses, professors, fellow students, random strangers, neighbours past and present, friends, backhanded gratitudees (bullies and the like), service providers, celebrities etc, etc – just so many people who have made me who I am and to all of you un-named in this past year, you are part of this gratitude journey just because you were not personally mentioned here doesn’t mean you weren’t recognized by me.  To all the new people that will come in to my life, thanking you in advance as some of you will change and influence me in new ways.  Thank you to all of you who came along with me on this 365 day journey as well.  Your encouragement and support has gotten me to this end point.

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July 20 – so young

361/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Back in the day, my Accounting teacher told me that in life there are three definites: death, taxes and car accidents.  That hit me.  I didn’t know about any of them at age 17.  I learned about taxes pretty quickly – take home vs gross pay – pretty ugly.  Yes, I’ve had my fair share of fender benders – small accidents thankfully.  I did not experience any immediate family loss until well into my 40s.  Yes, so very rare and very fortunate but I did attend funerals prior to this.  Sadly, as a teacher, they were of my students.  I have been teaching high school since 1991 and have taught well into the thousands of young minds.  They are perpetually 17 or 18 years old to me.  Lives full of potentiality!  A lot of them feel like extended family because I get to know them as young adults since I teach grade 11 and 12.  With the advent of social media, I have gotten to keep in touch with them and get to see what they are getting up to in their lives and I vicariously take pride in their successes and when there are failures in their lives, I also feel that sense of loss.  Thus to hear/find out that these young, amazing people have passed away well before their prime was something that I was not prepared for.   The one that struck me the most was Chris.  He was in my and the school’s (Burnett) first graduating class ever.  Chris had it all.  Height, model looks, girlfriend on his arm, athleticism, university acceptance, amazing family and a wonderful and humble personality.  Always respectful to me and constantly smiling and just an all around nice guy.  This is exactly who I wanted to have as a son if I ever had a son (which would happen a couple years later).  The day that I heard that he was killed in a car accident shortly after graduation devastated me.  This was the first death of a person I had known.  It was a student.  There should be distance.  This should not affect me.  I didn’t know him that well.  He was just in my class.  I tried making the excuses but it did affect me.  He was like a “child” to me as are many of the students that I teach and end up bonding with.  He was an amazing young man with his whole life in front of him.  He has stuck in my mind.  He has forever affected me.  Yes, there have been other students.  None as young as him yet none of them any less important but Chris was that special young man.  Chris made me realize that in my career as teacher, the students that I work with will also affect me just as much as I affect them and all I wish upon their graduations is not only for their happiness but that they lead long and happy lives.  Yes Chris, you are gone, but you are never forgotten!  Thank you for coming into my life and showing me that teaching is more than just teaching – it’s about connections, memories and relationships.

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!

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!

June 21 – one awesome student teacher

332/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As I’ve said on a couple of occasions, one of the greatest professional development opportunities that I have ever had as a teacher is when I was seconded by UBC as Adjunct Teaching Professor.  I taught student teachers how to teach but I got to learn at the same time.  My learning took place when I got to be in their classes to watch them teach.  First year was pretty damn easy as I was tasked with teaching and observing only Business Education teachers and my degree was in Commerce and I had taught, with the exception of Accounting, all the businesses classes under our huge curricular umbrella.  Second year, I was asked to – okay, directed to – observe Social Studies teachers as I also taught Law and Psychology.  I didn’t see any similarities with those subjects and Geography and History or junior Socials but UBC did.  I ended up being in Nikki’s class and faked my knowledge for the first few beginning classes but then soon realized that the subject matter was secondary to Nikki’s actual teaching.  I didn’t realize that in my first year but in that second year watching Nikki, I definitely knew that what you are teaching takes backseat to how you are teaching.  Nikki rocked it.  I couldn’t believe how inventive she was – yes, I have “stolen” a few of her methodologies and have been employing them in my classes today.  Her enthusiasm for teaching and her wanting to learn from me for teaching ideas was refreshing.  We had some great conversations after her classes and I had to choose her as one of the top Student Teachers when it came to awards time because plain and simple, she just blew it out of the park.  I can say that there were a few who were in the program just going through the motions to get their degree and weren’t really into teaching for the sake of teaching but here was Nikki who reaffirmed in me that this is what teaching was – dare I say that I saw myself during my practicum year in Nikki.  Thank you Nikki for being one of those student teachers who reinvigorated an old-timer in his career and for allowing me to see that there are young, passionate teachers out there and when I have to pass over the baton, knowing that there are the likes of you coming into the profession!  Haven’t talked to you recently but so hope some district has scooped you up – here’s to you!!

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!

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.

March 4 – nice guys finish first

223/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Some of these gratitude posts just happen to work out in that I write and publish them on the day that I have seen/will see the gratitudee. Today’s post falls in that category. I met Mitch while I was an instructor at UBC 6 years ago. He was in the Business Education Teacher program and I was the instructor for all his methodologies courses as well as some of the other classes he was in. Although some of the members of the co-hort were there to jump through the requisite hoops to get their degrees in order to be able to teach and I was just a means to an end, this was not the case with Mitch. He genuinely enjoyed the program and went out of his way to gain a better understanding of concepts thereby encouraging me as the instructor as I felt that I was making a difference. We have since remained friends and I have seen him go from various substitute/temporary jobs to his first teaching contract (I think it’s permanent) as well as become a first time father. Mitch is one of the kindest guys that I know and he is also very genuine – promised to go to a Vancouver Giants game to hang out and where most of those types of promises are empty and never come to fruition, not with Mitch as we’re seeing a game courtesy of him tonight. I have never, ever seen him get mad and don’t think he can and if he does, he does in a very calm manner – something I envy and admire. I appreciate that we’ve kept our friendship going even though we hang once every year or so but engage in good conversations and laughs when we do.   Looking forward to my first Giants game ever!

March 1 – the boy who could’ve been me

220/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   This one is a special one – it goes out to the shy, socially awkward, left of centre, left of popular high school boy. The boy that I speak about today can be any boy (or girl) as we have all seen him but some of you have bullied him, others ignored him but a few of you have friended him.   No, the boy I speak about is not me surprisingly (but yes, was me when I was younger). The boy I speak about was in my class first semester of this year and I immediately recognized myself in him. I have also taught several other similar boys (and girls) along the way and have always made it my goal to have an honest, genuine connection with them and to go out of my way to make that happen as I would have loved the same back when I was in high school. It took a while for “R” to feel comfortable enough to break out of his shell – while his peers would jokingly connect with me in class, he did so through social media and his class writings taking his own time. Although I am very transparent in my marking and dealings with the students – never, ever one to play favourites (at times to my detriment), I had a bit of a soft spot for this student as I wanted him to succeed/exceed. I would never have discovered his wry sense of humour if it hadn’t been for his comments on tests or assignments and I was so proud to see him start to break out of his shell and make those comments in class. I didn’t realize the impact I had on him until he told me in a card that he gave to me a week or two after the end of the semester about how he missed the class and my passion for teaching but also my care for students – I am even moved as I type this because that is one of the reasons I got into teaching – to give to students what I didn’t ever get and for “R” to recognize that and let me know about it makes all the difference in the world as in a sense, I am helping that boy who back 35 years ago. Thank you so much “R” for your sense of humour, the connection and to opening up to me but more importantly letting me know that I made a difference as a teacher for you. I probably needed you in class as a student just as much as you needed me as your teacher!

January 24 – thank u to the thank u students

184/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. This post is for every student that I have taught who has told me that my teaching has had an effect on them – whether telling me orally or putting it on a note, card or email or just thinking about it – I greatly appreciate you and the passion you ignite in me for teaching. From the day I started, it’s all been because of the students in my classes that has kept me going. From my first day of practicum at Charles Tupper teaching Marketing and Accounting and Data Processing, I still remember the kids from my Marketing class who at the end of my 13 week practicum, got together and presented me with a gold pen and pencil set. I was in shock and didn’t know how to react but my practicum teacher said that this was the mark of a teacher who had made a connection. I knew from that moment on that putting my heart and soul into what I love was being recognized by the ones that were directly affected by what I did for a living. Early in my career, my wife created a keepsake binder to accumulate the various thank you cards and notes students had given me usually at the end of a semester. Initially, I didn’t see what the point of it was as I thought I wasn’t going to reread them but the binder has been one of the best gifts that I have received. I know my students must have thought long and hard to write the cards and notes and I greatly appreciate it – I mean, teenagers have so much more to do with their time but to sit down and write a letter of gratitude, that definitely moves me. In fact, whenever I get a little down about teaching (which is rare), I just randomly grab a card out of the binder and re-read why I do what I do. It’s really not about the subject matter but much more about the students who are in my classes that makes teaching such a wonderful job. For every student who to do this day still respects my teaching and what I taught them and who felt I made a difference, I thank you as that’s all I need to reach my goal of Self-Actualization. You have done just as much for me as I have done for you. In your honour, I take out that binder and reminisce once more.