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 10 – the people in your neighbourhood

351/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’m always fascinated by one’s environment and the kind of impact it has on one in regards to character formation.  I grew up in the 70s in Northwest Richmond BC – a predominantly white community with a few ethnic families.  We were told to assimilate by both our parents and by the community at large and we did.  My street – Riverdale (like the Archie comics – yes, I’m dating myself) – was host to a very diverse population in regards to socio-economic status, family types, and even ethnicities.  I remember almost every kid who lived on the street and I’d love to say that they were wonderful and left an amazing, lasting impression on me but I can’t say that.  With perhaps an exception of one or two, most were not pleasant to me.  However, that also helped shape me into the guy I am today.  My neighbours and yes, it’s my blog so I’m gonna name you – brothers Daryl and Ken R who lived right next door to me made my life a living hell (more so older Daryl with Ken following his lead).  They would spraypaint racist epithets on our driveway and no form of cleaning truly erased what was said literally and figuratively as it has stayed with me to this very.  Daryl would vandalize our home: windows broken, rip off our laundry off the line and I would have to go hunt it down on the street, throw all sorts of trash into our yard and have his buddies over to spit at me from their deck while I (remember that I am extremely overweight and nerdy) had to cut the grass.  Daryl would make fun of me when my dad would be taken to Riverview, he would say the worst racist things to my mom and I would yell back and he would laugh at my face.  My mom told me to ignore them and do what I had to and just keep the peace and although I was angry at Daryl and Ken, I did what I had to and took the abuse.  They involved neighbourhood kids like Candace and Todd, Arif and Shafik (yes, that Shafik if you live in Richmond) to join in and yes, they joined in.  There were others but I need to get off this bitter train before I start giving them all their own compartments 😉 The neighbour kids across the street, although not involved directly, saw how very unconfident I was and did their own things – siblings R, P and K, and K and her sister – nowhere near the extent of Daryl and his followers with physical things but more psychological.  At the time, along with the bullying I suffered from (see post #15) in school, I hated my life and just wished I didn’t live there but I got through.  As with that earlier bullying post, I became stronger – a Survivor.  Everything I am today is on a subconscious level in spite of all of my tormentors.   I haven’t really thought of these neighbourhood kids until today and just happened to Facebook find a few of them as I was writing this and was tempted to send them this link but I am above all that – yes, I named you and I needed to do that and yes, I hope some of you who read this post and are in touch with them will forward it to them but I am beyond the Riverdale neighbourhood kids today and so much better off given what you put me through as I am that much stronger.

July 8 – bros in law

349/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Some of these posts would have been written earlier in my 365 day journey but because of life circumstances, I wasn’t in the mental place to write them because of my personal situationship!  However, almost a year later, I am in a better place and acknowledge people who did impact me positively prior to the life events of the last few years.  I have four brothers-in-law.  Two are married to my sisters.  Two are my wife’s brothers.  I’ve talked about one of my sister’s husband already.  Tonight, it’s about my wife’s brothers.  I met Jujar and Surinder almost 25 years ago at the various pre-wedding functions that take months and months at Indian weddings! 😉 Jujar one year my senior and Surinder one year my junior.   I was excited as I had instant brothers!  I only had sisters all my life so it was cool to have these two new guys.  The two of them are pretty much exact opposites.  Jujar, the one with the cool name (nickname Ju) that I had never heard of (even to this day), is calm, easy-going, laid back and takes life as it comes.  I chuckle to myself when I think about first meeting him and his afro – but I am one to talk about hairstyles!! 😉  I can say that I have rarely, if ever, seen Ju get upset or fazed by anything.  I mean, he could have 20 extended family members show up at his house and decide they are going to spend the night and he just gets the air mattresses ready as if it’s no big deal (and to him, it isn’t) and we have an impromptu motel for the night!  Surinder is the guy who lives for the moment.  For as long as I have known him, every year he and his family are vacationing in some amazing destination that I have only dreamed of.  He makes time for his family when he can which is understandable when one is living in Texas.  He brings a sense of fun and frivolity when the families get together.  It has been great having these guys as brothers-in-law – all three of us very different, but all three of us learning from one another.

July 3 – where my girls at?

344/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by females.  Born in New Westminster, my mom just 19 would stay with her aunts and nieces in Vancouver while my dad was at work.  I was told that I was passed from female cousin/aunt to female cousin/aunt as they were all older and I was the new toy.  I was with them for about the first four years of my life.  Nary a male around.  Growing up in Richmond, my own siblings and first cousins were born and they were all female.  I stayed with my aunts, sister and cousins while my mom worked.  Once again, usually the only male child around.  I can admit that because of my earlier nurturing, I have an ease with females that eludes many a male.  In high school, I related to the females who would say that they found it easy to get along with males as fellow females didn’t get them.  I felt this way with males but once I hit university and found my stride that all changed and I easily made friendships with my male counterparts just as easily as I did with the females.  I recall sitting down at a lunch table with a few female staff members who were already engaged in conversation.  I gleaned that they had an informal top 5 list of male staff members that “creeped them out”.  I was taken aback – no, not at the list, but if I had ranked!!?  I asked them as much and I was told that I could never, ever end up on such a list.  Phew!  Then of course I had to know who made it and was told and given an explanation for each and I realized that I was the antithesis of every single guy on the list based on their characteristics and qualities that made these women (and I suppose most women) uncomfortable.  Even tonight, there was a mini work reunion of sorts and it ended up being four females and myself and yes, when I initially heard about the guest list, I was missing the male camaraderie but moments into the festivities, friendship and ease took over and once again, I was in my element with these ladies cracking jokes and just reminiscing.  Thanks to all the females in my life when I was a young child as you totally shaped me into the man I am today allowing the females who come into my life today to appreciate the man I am and I thank you ladies as well for being a part of my life and accepting me into your fold.  Here’s where my girls are at!

June 25 – that indian boy

336/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  One can never really know if they inspire others.  One can never really know if they are a role model to others.  Unless that one is told.  Teaching is a career that lends itself to making differences for people but as I alluded to, you don’t know who you are affecting or how you are doing so.  At McNair, the school that I am at, a school with a diverse student population, and a school with many students from the same ethnic heritage as myself, I was worried that I wouldn’t be Indian enough for my students – okay, let’s be honest, I knew I was not Indian enough if at all and wondered how they would take me.  There was an Indian boy in my classes with a turban and surprisingly, he hung on my every word and listened intently in my Psychology class.  Gurkaran would ask me about how different theories helped explain certain types of behaviour.  He would question some of my choices in regards to my education and job choices growing up.  He would ask my advice on current issues and I was told by another teacher that Gurkaran was really impressed by me and I was having an impact on him.  I was more than surprised as I did not realize that I was having any type of influence on him – for whatever reason and shortcomings/stereotypes I built up, I just assumed that the last connection I would make would be with Indian kids but here I was doing just that.  Because of Gurkaran, I had to let go of a lot of stereotypes I had about my western upbringing and those of the Indian students I was teaching – an important and necessary revelation and realization for me.  There were much more commonalities that I had with my Indian students and my differences actually added to my abilities as a teacher to inspire all kids regardless of ethnicity.  I am thankful for Gurkaran in making me aware of the connectivity I have with students that I unconsciously put a barrier up against.  Demolition fully complete this year!

May 29 – the girl who lived down the street

309/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   If you’ve been reading these gratitude posts, you’ve probably gleaned that I wasn’t the most confident young man during my pre-teen and teenage years.  Lots of things conspired against me to keep me from reaching my potential in my younger years – so not lovin’ who I was because of my ethnicity (being made fun of) and my weight (being bullied for it) and my nerdy looks (being beat up for it) and my dad’s schizophrenia (being made fun of) but it was just something I got used to but never truly accepted.  There were many reasons why I got through those tough times: my love of listening to music, focus on schoolwork, escape into television, push of my mom etc.  However there was also this person that I would see on my daily walks to school that also helped.  I was fascinated by her.  She lived on the same street as I did and I saw her from my elementary years walking past her house all the way to my university years being at the same bus stop.  I never once spoke to her in all that time even though I was enthralled by her.  Why?  She was probably about 5 years older than me.  She was Indo-Canadian.  She was very Indian.  She wore flowers in her hair.  She had a long braid.  She was heavy-set with a moon face.  She was not Canadian born.  She wore heavy Indian make-up.  She flounced when she walked.  She oozed confidence.  I was stunned by her.  Not her physical beauty as I did not find her attractive – oh wait, Freud might say I did on some subconscious level 😉  Rather, I was inspired by her self-assurance.  At that time, I was ashamed of my ethnicity as I lived in a very white community and had no role models but here was this person who obviously and rightfully so reveled in her heritage.  She was rotund and damn did she own it and did not let it own her.  I remember being at a wedding reception that she, with her family, was also at and my aunt, that mean aunt that I wrote about earlier, was making fun of her and this girl confidently ignored her and tore up the dance floor.  I was stunned!  I was inspired.  I honestly think she, on some subconscious level (yeah, Freud you can have this one), made me accept my fatness and my Indian-ness – I didn’t rock it like she did until much later – and I have her to thank for me finally accepting and rocking what was genetically given to me!

May 27 – house at the end of the street

307/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Most people in the gratitude posts first hear of my gratitude via these posts but I was able to let today’s gratitudee know about what she did for me about a decade or so ago.  I lived on Riverdale Drive when I was growing up and as I’ve mentioned many times, I didn’t have many friends as I was a fat, ethnic, geeky kid who was not comfortable in the skin I was in and I’m sure kids saw that weaknesses and went in for the kill.  Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the house with books and television to avoid the verbal and physical abuse by some of the kids in the neighbourhood and when I would venture out, I would watch on the sidelines as I wasn’t invited to hang with anyone.  There was a house on the corner of Riverdale and Coltsfoot that had an older girl and her siblings who lived there.  They had a trampoline that all the neighbourhood kids would hang at.  While I was in elementary and had to venture out that way, Roberta would always say hi to me.  She was about 4 years my senior.  She was beautiful in the eyes of this teenager.  I guess it was because she was nice to me as well.  She invited me a couple of times to hang out with the rest of the kids and those were the few times that I wasn’t made fun of because of this older girl.  As I entered grade 8, I would walk by her house on the way home from school and she always waved and said hello.  She acknowledged me – I wasn’t that invisible person or person to be pushed out of the way.  That little gesture did so much for me.  There were actually nice people out there.  Unbeknownst to me, years later, her son was in my class and I saw Roberta again during parent teacher interviews.  She was with her husband.  She had no clue who I was but I totally remembered her.  I told her during that teacher interview what she had done for me.  She then remembered me but she didn’t recall going out of her way being nice to me and that’s exactly what it was – nothing for her but monumental for me.  She shed a little tear that that little thing made a difference for me and I was so happy that I could tell her in person.  People like Roberta made a difference for me and I hope that I am someone’s Roberta as well unknowingly.

May 19 – the lady at the gym

299/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Do you ever have moments when something clairvoyant-like takes place and you are trying to get an understanding of the logic behind it?  The other day I was thinking of a woman that I would run into back in my 20s and 30s when I used to work out at Fitness World.  I was wondering whatever happened to her.  She was a Punjabi woman who was well over my mom’s age (probably by a decade or more).  I was fascinated by her because first she was working out lifting weights.  Second, she had short cropped hair – growing up Indo-Canadian, all females sported long hair and older women had auntie-buns – but not her.  Third, she was made up to the nines (yes, she was working out but damn, she did it in style).  Fourth, her English, although accented, was impeccable.  I recall her sitting on a bike next to me striking up a conversation with me and of course, small world – she knew my mom and my extended family.  She started giving me hugs when I would be at the gym and I met her once at the temple where she just grabbed me and told my mom that I was her other son and we had only talked casually.  I admired her and how she really got me to see older Indian woman in a different light than what I was used to growing up.  The evening after she had popped into my head earlier this week, my mom phoned and asked me if I remember a woman who used to work out at the gym.  I was floored as I told her that I was just thinking about her.  My mom got all quiet and then told me that she had just gone to her husband’s funeral that day and that she (this lady) was asking about her “son” (me)!  To say I was weirded out would be an understatement.  I guess I also affected her on some level.  I made a promise to my mom that in the upcoming weeks I would make a trip to her place to give my condolences but also to connect with her.  I am very fortunate that a lot of good people have come into my life over the years to get me to think about life and this lady is one of those people.  Thank you for allowing me to see (Indo-Canadian) women of my mom’s generation and older as productive, vital, independent and lively rather than what I was shaped to see them as through my interactions in a patriarchal cultural.  I look forward to our reunion where I can tell you this in person.

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 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!