July 24 – last post: me, myself & I

365/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This is it.  The end is finally here.  My year-long gratitude journey comes to a close with this final post and to quote that song – I did “Save the Best for Last”.  Yes, that may sound very narcissistic but that’s the entire point of this gratitude post.  It’s about me.  And why can’t one or rather why shouldn’t one recognize themselves.  Take pride in their own accomplishments.  Think highly of themselves.  If you don’t think well of yourself and put yourself first, why should anyone else think any better of you.  I have always done that and never let what was happening in my life change the way I see myself.  Maybe that’s why I’ve gotten through all that life has thrown me and I’ve shown life that I believe in me, and so should everyone else.  I’m far from perfect and I can admit my foibles but they don’t define me – I focus on the positives.  This year long journey has allowed me to become even more comfortable in my own skin – I mean, I got a belly from inactivity this year (through no fault of my own – injuries and sickness) and the Randy of a year ago would have been obsessing over it but today’s Randy is oh well, I’ll work on it.  I went through a relationship crisis that I am still working on but I’m not so consumed that I won’t allow myself to enjoy what life puts in my way at the moment.  I fully embraced aging – denying in my 40s but wearing it proudly in my 50s – I mean I accepted my grey hair finally purple shampoo withstanding 😉  I make fun of myself because I know that I am sometimes not the brightest bulb but I still shine bright (maybe not like a diamond though) : )  I am proud of my ethnicity and no longer denying it.  I admit and own up to my weaknesses and character flaws and am trying to learn to improve myself.  I’ve opened up over the past year.  I’ve shared more than most people share in a lifetime and only then to a few close people.  I’ve alienated people but I’ve also earned the respect of others.  I am strong.  I am weak.  I am bold.  I am nervous.  I want to be accepted.  I want to accept.  I want to be loved.  I want to love.  I want to be respected.  I want to be needed.  I want to be heard.  But with all that, I am so very happy with myself.  I am a good person.  I try hard.  I don’t always succeed but I have a good heart.  Yes, I hurt but that won’t get in the way of me still being me.  I know I’m too much for a lot of people but I’m not going to change for anyone as I love who I am and how I put myself out there.  And I love the people who have stood by me and who support me.  I am me.  I have a lot more to learn about myself and still open up about that 365 days didn’t allow but in the end, what I undertook and finished and who I am as a result is someone I am very proud of!  On this last day, I thank me, myself and I as I am a pretty awesome guy if I don’t say so myself ; )

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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 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!

May 8 – to all moms

288/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.    My very first gratitude post 287 posts ago on my birthday was about my mother.  Today being Mother’s Day, I just wanted to recognize all the “moms” who’ve had an effect on me but also all moms in general as well.  Moms can be biological.  Moms can be adoptive.  Moms can be dads.  Moms can be single.  Moms can be aunts.  Moms can be grandmothers.  Moms can be family friends.  Moms can be in heaven.  Moms can be trying.  Moms can be loving.  Moms can be teens.  Moms can be older.  Moms are all sorts of things.  Moms are whomever you share that bond with.  My mom fits several categories.  My aunts have acted as surrogate moms.  My grandma has been a mother figure at times. My wife is a great mom to our kids.  I am the first to admit that the bond between mother and child(ren) is much more important than the bond between father and child and it will always be that way for most people – hey, there’s a reason why it’s the second biggest gift giving day (after Christmas) because our mothers are important.  Moms sacrifice careers, deal with tears, have fears and will get cheers but also jeers.  Moms are the true superheroes in my opinion – from my own mom, to my cousins, my wife, my sisters, my aunts, my friends, my grandma – I’ve seen how much moms do.  Today, I will go visit my mother but also my grandmother – yes, it shouldn’t be about one day but if not for today, I might keep putting it off (especially in my grandmother’s case).  To all the moms as defined above, thank you for all that you do as the ripple effect of your hard work, care and love are felt by countless others unbeknownst to you!

April 21 – Prince

271/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I heard about Prince’s death this morning from a friend who came by my classroom.  My heart sank.  I was devastated.  Thankfully, my class was working on individual assignments so I could take time to process.  I loved Prince like no other!  People had/have their musical idols – Bowie, Lennon, Cobain, Mercury, Houston, Jackson – all amazing no doubt but Prince epitomized music for me.  He was my idol.  I love music but his music spoke to me on a different level – it was funk.  It was rock.  It was soul.  And it touched my soul.  I loved his image too and he, other than David Bowie, was a male who kept on reinventing himself with look after look – something I have done since I was a young adult – he made it normal for me as a teenage/young male to change up how I presented myself.  I idolized him.  He also made it acceptable not to have to be hyper-masculine to be a male.  He had attitude.  He oozed confidence and sexual bravado.  He didn’t take shit.  He talked smack about whatever he wanted to.  He wore his androgyny proudly.  He did it his own way regardless of what anyone thought. He was Prince.  Everything about him, I loved – and have come to emulate consciously but more subconsciously.  He produced for other artists and after hearing their collabs (Sheena Easton for one), I became a fan of that artist but the reason was the Prince sound.  His videos were iconic – When Doves Cry and Kiss are etched into my memory as are dozens of others.  His signature voice – the falsetto (Camille voice) morphing into his deep natural voice and the amazing production of his songs equaled perfection.  No matter what you called him – Prince, The Purple One, The Kid, The Artist Formerly Known As, Symbol – you can’t deny his talent.  I didn’t understand how people were moved by a celebrity’s death, someone they didn’t know, until today.  Perhaps it reminds me of my mortality as I grew up on his music in the 80s and now I’m 50 and he was only 57.  Perhaps he felt like a member of my extended family as he was always there musically and visually to get me through life’s moments.  Perhaps his songs resonated so deeply with me as they formed the soundtrack of my teens/young adulthood.  Whatever the reason, I’m gonna miss the musical genius but I take comfort in the fact that I have his music to remind me of his talent and what they meant to me.  I concoct a purple martini in your honour and salute you!

April 17 – to new friends

267/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   Contrary to what you see these days, I wasn’t the carefree, confident, out there guy growing up.  I wasn’t shy in the true sense of the word but rather unsure of myself and how people would take me.  I was nervous that people would judge me because I was too intense, didn’t watch sports, had a fairly unconventional look – almost anything possible that I could find negative about myself, I used as a protective tool not to have to open up to people and be shunned.  That changed sometime in my 20s where I allowed myself to just be me and not care as much about how I am perceived and have been that way ever since.  This past weekend, I met about half a dozen new people at a couple of social gatherings.  Every single one of them younger than me from a few years to more than a few years and we connected – not saying we will be lifelong friends or even acquaintances but who’s to say what develops.   This is the thing that surprises me often – that regardless of age, people connect – I expect new people to be scared off when I reveal I’m 50 but that is not the case and I also believe that making friends in later life is harder to do which is clearly not the case.   I think I’m probably the ageist in that I expect to have nothing in common with people outside my age range but as I have learned from all the new people who have come into my life over the last few years, age is not a defining factor in friendships but it’s more about commonalities and connections.  To all of the new people in the last few years who I have met and maintained friendships with, I am very grateful as each of you in your own ways has brought out good in me and I am hoping that I have also done something for you as well.  I look forward to getting to know you or getting to know you even better!  Thank you for giving this old man a chance 🙂

April 14 – Orphan Black

264/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I will admit it, I’m a tv junkie! I love my reality tv but only competition type shows. I love some comedies. I also love some hour long shows but few and far between. However, if you have been on my Facebook, you will know that I am absolutely obsessed with one show – Orphan Black! Four years ago, my then just turned 13 year old son and I saw the preview for the premiere and were hooked (however, he happened to watch the first show on his own and told me he didn’t want to watch it anymore and as I confusedly picked up from where he had paused – only to discover he had stopped during the one and only graphic sex scene the entire 4 seasons, alas he didn’t continue LOL – I’m sure it would be different today). Sadly for the fans, the show is only 10 episodes per season and understandably so as the amazing actress who plays lead plays lead over and over and over. Yes, fellow Canadian Tatiana Maslany (who I had never heard of before this show) plays upwards of 5 regular clones per episode all with their own unique characteristics and qualities. I have to remind myself that Tatiana’s uptight, ponytailed, recovering alcoholic soccer mom Allison is played by the same Tatiana as Ukranian, bleached blonde, recovering psychopath Helena also played by yes the same Tatiana who plays the heart of gold, ditzy yet loveable, uber-blonde Krystal who does duty as quirky, pot-smoking, braniac scientist, the dreadlocked Cosima – did you get that? And that’s only four clones. The subtleties that this actress brings to all of the different clones – are we at 16 so far? – is beyond human! I didn’t know anything about acting and I still don’t know much but I do know that Tatiana Maslany is just amazing and mesmerizing in her portrayals of these unique female characters and up until this show, I never considered a person’s acting – I just watched for entertainment but when one woman carries the show all by herself and acts with herself in scenes with multiple clones, that’s when you realize what true talent is. I am a Clone-Clubber as I am enthralled by this show, follow blogs, have gone to viewing parties and just am truly a fan of the talent that is Tatiana Maslany (so hope she gets the lead in the new Star Wars film that she is in the running for). I’m so giddy with excitement for the season four premiere tonight that I can’t wait to be enthralled for the next two months. So yeah, be forewarned Facebook friends, my infatuation with Tatiana Maslany’s amazing talent is going to be in full force! To my clones – Sarah, Allison, Cosima, Helena, Rachel, Katja, Jennifer, Krystal, MK, Beth, Tony – long live this Orphan Black journey!

April 12 – the other adult in the class

262/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Times have sure changed.  Yes, that’s a cliché for sure but it’s so very true.  The classroom is so much different than it was 10 years ago.  Definitely different than when I first got into teaching!  The classrooms are much more diverse and I don’t mean by ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality or anything of that kind.  Classrooms are educationally diverse in that you have all sorts of learners bringing their unique needs, abilities, challenges and requirements to the same classroom.  Integration/inclusion where possible is the norm these days but this post is not to discuss the merits or faults of the system.  This is the reality as a teacher and one must be able to adapt to what one is presented in regards to classroom composition.  For the longest time, I had the typical students you see on television especially because I taught electives like Marketing, Law and Psychology.  Students of differing abilities were few and far between and I rarely saw Individualized Educational Programs (I bet you that isn’t even the term) but in today’s classroom, I have many identified students with adapted or modified programs and I am very thankful for the assistance provided by Educational Assistants (or Special Assistants or Teacher Assistants – the terms vary).  I can say without a doubt that I could never do their job and I bow down to them.  During my early years of teaching, my experience with EAs was rare as I didn’t have designated students in my classes (which is a good thing as the EAs I had kinda needed EAs for themselves!!  LOL).  However, fthe last few years, I have had EAs in my classes because of the differing needs of students that are now identified and make up a classroom and I can say that the calibre of EAs has improved vastly from my initial experience.  I value these adults in the classroom as they are exactly that, adults to assist me in getting my learning objectives across to the students.  I am very grateful to have that extra person with me and I do not use them as a person to photocopy, run errands etc but to help all students in the class.  I have been very fortunate that the EAs that I have had have been so very organized, went out of their way to not only help the student they were assigned to but also encourage other students in class and also helped me design curriculum and write reports and evaluations for the identified student(s).  Often these EAs are overlooked, not acknowledged or sometimes just ignored in a classroom but I can’t even fathom doing my job with learning challenged students if these EAs were not in my class and I always treat them with all the respect they deserve and am so thankful that we as teachers have this assistance so we can meet every students needs to the best of our respective abilities!  I wish the government recognized your worth and compensated you just as fairly.

April 11 – student teachers

261/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  The greatest professional development experience of my teaching career was being able to work with individuals entering into the profession but not as a school sponsor but as their instructor/mentor when I taught at the university level.  Engaging in dialogues with the student teachers where questioning of pedagogy took place was something I didn’t do on my own while teaching my classes in high school.  You get caught up just keeping your head above water when you are teaching so this “break” of sorts from the classroom allowed me to ponder ideologies that I had never reflected on.  But the more rewarding aspect of working with these newbies was watching them teach during their practicums and thus, this gratitude post goes out to those that I worked with during their practicums.  I was amazed by the innovative ideas that these teachers, yes, teachers came up with and I will freely admit that I stole a few and use them in my repertoire today.  They renewed my passion for the classroom and after three years, I was ready to go back and did miss the high school classroom.  I am very fortunate through social media that I still keep in touch with these men and women and I revel in the successes of “my student teachers” or my brood (if there was a male equivalent of a mother hen, then I’d be that).  I am so glad that I worked with so many awesome teachers in the university classroom and also in their classrooms and learned as much from them as they did from me.  To my student teachers, here’s to you and thanks for the great professional experience I had from 2009 – 2012 which I still remember fondly to this day.

March 2 – shout out to the blue collars

221/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   For this gratitude blog, sometimes I have people in mind months prior, other times I have the gratitudee come to me the day of. Today it’s the latter. I was getting my vehicle washed and vacuumed at a dealership and had half an hour or so and decided to walk and get some groceries. As I was walking to the store, I started noticing the people who were getting off their work shifts around 4pm and almost every person was some type of blue collar labourer – from the construction men to the delivery truck driver, from the kitchen staff at the back of restaurants to the guys doing the detailing of my vehicle. This observation is even more interesting in that during one of my classes, I remarked to the students that although I may look like I come from a life of privilege, I came from a blue collar family and worked every summer (as far as I can remember) as a labourer – berry picker, restaurant employee and in various retail establishments. Maybe on some subconscious level, that conversation made me hyper-aware of the people I encountered later but regardless, I am glad that I had that sense of my surroundings because it made me that much more aware of the career that I have and thankful that it fits my personality. When I did manual labour as a child and teenager, I absolutely hated it and it did not make me happy as a person. I also knew that that was not the field for me through career testing in high school. However, it is exactly what some people enjoy – my son being one for example. I am very appreciative of my blue collar brethren (and sisters) who are employed in these fields and love what they do, like what they do, or do what they have to do as it makes me realize that I am not of that ilk and that I should be and am grateful for the line of work that I found myself in. I have been told by blue-collar friends that they could never do my job and/or want to do my job and today I finally understood what that really meant. Our personalities must match our vocation in order for true fulfilment in that area. Thank you to all of you who are in the hands-on fields to make me realize and appreciate that I need to be in the hands-off path for my personal growth to take place.