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!

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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!

April 15 – time of Grace

265/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  UBC is when I came out of my shell but I was also trying to figure out what type of shell I had been in as well.  I tried many looks – yes, I sported the asymmetrical hair with the funky patterned shirts and neon pants (total 80s guy).  I also tried on personalities but the true, overexcited, loud, fun person eventually surfaced.  During those UBC Commerce years – probably the most conservative of degrees I could have chosen – I met quite a few people and made friends with a few as people as well.  One of the people who was in my option of Marketing was Grace.  I don’t think we ever spoke as I had my own partners for projects and she had her own people.  We were in a couple of required classes together but other than that, she would have been like any other person in the degree – a fleeting memory.  However, two years later, I decided to change paths and get my Education degree.  I did my practicum at Charles Tupper in the Business department and who was a teacher there?   Grace!   She recognized me immediately and started talking to me and I will be honest, I had no clue who she was but feigned recognition.  I think she may have figured it out LOL but it was great having Grace there.  She gave me invaluable advice about teaching and especially about how to work with my practicum teacher sponsors (her co-workers).  At the end of my practicum, I didn’t really think I’d see her again but we kept in touch via email but fast forward two years and I got a long term sub gig at Britannia Secondary for who – yup, Grace!  She was involved in a car accident and I took over her classes pretty close to the start of the school year.  Of course, I had to talk to her almost weekly about the subjects and what I should be doing and that is when we started becoming friends.  I saw her at conferences and we started exchanging Christmas cards, shared child rearing stories and advice about life, immigrant parents – the list went on.  We made efforts to connect back in the day although it’s tougher now as both of us are busy with life.  Thank you Grace for being that mentor that I needed starting off my teaching career and for being a good friend over the years.  Here’s to reconnecting again.

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 13 – debits to the left, credits to the right

232/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I’ve taught a lot of teenagers over my years – probably nearing 4500+ students. That’s a huge number now that I reflect on it. I have also been fortunate enough to teach adults at UBC for 3 years – probably about 150 during that time. That’s a lot students I’ve had influence on but as I’ve mentioned over these gratitude posts, there are several that also impacted me. At UBC, I taught the adult students in the Education program to become teachers. I got to know about 8-10 on a different level each year as I was fortunate enough to watch them teach in the classroom during their practicum. Once they finished the program, I kept in touch with many of them to see how they fared hoping all of them ended up with permanent teaching contracts joining myself in the awesome profession of teaching. One of those adult learners was Colin D. I not only taught him the required courses in the teacher education program, I was also his adviser during his practicum. This guy, as a student teacher, was amazing. I still remember some of his hooks to start off lessons and his knowledge and use of technology inside and outside of the classroom was amazing, You know when you have an awesome teacher? When they can make Accounting interesting!! He creates educational music videos – his one for Debits and Credits is used by many Business teachers – yes, myself being one (also inspiring me to have my students create their own business videos)! He also did so well on his practicum that he ended up co-authoring the Accounting textbook used by most high school teachers. If that’s not accomplishing something during your practicum, then I don’t know what a successful practicum is. Thanks Colin for giving me ideas and inspiration as I ended up being tasked with teaching Accounting upon my return to the high school environment. Your students are very fortunate to have you as their teacher but we in education are also very fortunate to have you as one of us. I look forward to seeing and hearing about what you come up with next!

December 23 – i like your curves

152/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Curves! They are all over the place. In baseball – curve. In fashion – curvy. In conversation – someone throws you a curve. And of course in education – marking on the curve. Being that I am a teacher, this latter use of curve has come up several times in my career. I know that “the curve” represents the majority of people: most are average in height thus supermodels are technically freaks of nature 😉 Most of us are average in weight – TLC shows us the outliers in their programming. Most of us are also average in intelligence. Thus the averages cluster into the center of the curve, the normal curve. Enough of my lesson on that 🙂 While getting my teaching degree, one of my Education professors (oh how I wished I remembered her name – I have seen her around though) questioned our class about grading and grading on the curve. We had a very informative discussion on how students should be assessed on their abilities and not marked on a theoretical curve. I was inspired by that discussion but also dejected in that I knew that my grade in that university class was going to be put on that same curve as most of the courses I had ever taken, I was assessed that way. I am usually not the type of person to broach a subject in a large group setting but I just had to say something and I did – respectfully even though I did use the term “hypocrisy” in my questioning. I thought there would be some type of reprisal but she was very forthcoming with her response and told me that I was right. This didn’t help alleviate my fears but she continued on. She said to the class that this was the first time that it had been brought up to her and that she would definitely evaluate each and every one of us on our potential without fitting us to the normal curve. I didn’t know where my potential would lie and I also thought perhaps she was paying the requisite lip service but she kept her word. I noted the grades at the end of the term and the majority of the class was at the high end of the spectrum. I don’t know if that was consciously done or that’s how we all ended up but that moment changed the way I assessed – never, ever marking on the normal curve. I, to the best of my abilities, assess every student for what they do in the class and not comparatively to others but to the objective standards for assignments and projects that I have set up and I allow for bonus marks because if you put the extra effort in, you should be awarded and rewarded. Thank you Education professor for getting me to think about assessment and evaluation early in the game and put me on the path that is justifiable for my teaching. In your honour, I skew the curve for the students benefit 😉

December 14 – teach me something

143/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I was one of those people that had to complete a practicum to enter into my chosen career. Not only are practicums invaluable for the employer to determine if they are hiring the correct fit for the job but they are just as important for the prospective employee to ensure that the job meets their needs. My practicum was way back in 1991 teaching at a school called Tupper in East Vancouver. I was very intimidated and it was a school well out of my comfort zone – I mean, it was East Van!!! 😉 Yes, I fell for all the stereotypes and was a bag of nerves on my first day but all for naught – the kids there were amazing but where I lucked out was with my school advisors. Although the norm was that a student teacher would get 1 – 3 advisors, I ended up with 5!! The two main ones were Diane M and George T. Each of them taught different courses and since I had a Business Degree, it was deemed that I was “qualified” to teach all of their courses: Information Technology, Keyboarding, Accounting, Marketing, Economics etc. Unlike my peers who had perhaps 2 -4 courses to prepare for, I had 7 courses but I didn’t know any different so I did what I had to. Each of my advisors had their own philosophy regarding teaching and each one is of benefit to me to this very day. George was laid back in his approach – he let me just go with whatever I wanted to try and if the lesson failed, it was a learning opportunity. This approach was very outside my perfectionist ideology but so necessary for me at the time. It allowed me to extend my teaching far beyond my comfort limits as I had his okay at the back of my mind – to this day, I am willing to take chances with my Marketing classes because of George’s permissiveness with my student teaching. Diane taught me a very valuable lesson which I quickly realized in my teaching career. I was teaching the same class that she was also teaching in another block and I thought it would be great if we taught the same material and used the same resources. She unequivocally said no. I was taken aback and then resentful. Of course, I then created my own materials – lessons and tests and used them not understanding why she wouldn’t have let me used her resources. It was only at the end of my practicum that she revealed that she wanted me to create my own materials on my practicum as I would inevitably be tasked with teaching new courses where I would have no one to rely on for resources. At the time, I feigned comprehension but I only gained a true understanding of what she meant and what she developed in me in my first few years of teaching subjects that I was never prepared for. To George and Diane, I couldn’t have asked for better sponsor teachers during my practicum – you have made me the teacher I am today. Thank you so much for your guidance. In your honour, I take on student teachers and pass them the wisdom and guidance I gleaned from you.