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 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!!

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.

February 21 – teacher friends

212/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. This past Friday, I, along with 5 others, organized a Teacher’s Pro D day held at a common school for 5 secondary high schools. It was a lot of work behind the scenes but the day turned out to be very successful and I got a lot of positive feedback; however, that is not the purpose of today’s gratitude post. There were a lot of people who showed up and as I looked around, there were a significant number that I had come into contact with during my teaching career. I saw, talked to and connected with a lot of teacher friends from over the years and each person – although I couldn’t spend much time with them due to my organizational commitments – brought back many memories that we had shared over the years. I realized that they had shaped me just by being around me in some way even if I no longer see them anymore. From Paul who briefly taught across the hall from me one semester and his conversations around life and death to the new, young teacher Taren who had taught my son and gave me an insight into who he is. From Mandeep who is amazing for my ego as she has nothing but positives for me each and every time she sees me to Joe whose dry sense of humour and sarcasm have taught me a thing or three about life. These are but a few of the teacher friends I saw this past Friday and these are but a few of the teacher friends that over the years have shaped me into the man, the academic, the friend, the teacher, the person who I am today. Thank you all for passing through my life and leaving a little piece of who you are on me as it has made me a better person. I look forward to reconnecting with you on a deeper level the next time we run into each other.

February 16 – you made my life Hell

207/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Oh how I hated you. And to all the people who say hate is a strong word, I disagree – if you greatly dislike something/someone, it’s definitely hate and I can admit to having those feelings. You made my days miserable – and I thank you. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have realized I needed a change. You monitored every move I made, criticized everything I did and made other people aware of it. And I’m glad you did as it lit the fire under my ass to do something about it. Perhaps you knew that I wasn’t happy and so you rode me to get me to re-evaluate things and now, 25 years or so later, I am so very happy that you were horrible to me as I am so very happy. I had just graduated from UBC with a Commerce degree – hating almost every moment of it as I had no passion for it. I saw my colleagues getting interviews and jobs with Campbell’s Soup, Benson & Hedges, KPMG etc etc. I didn’t even get the interviews and once again, in hindsight I’m so very glad. However, desperate to not have wasted my 5 years (yes, back then a Commerce degree was 5 years long), I took the first job that was available and got into the CIBC Management Training program but I’m wondering if I just convinced myself that I did and it was really just a teller job (no offense to tellers meant). I absolutely hated it more than getting the Commerce degree – at least my colleagues were fun!! I had to bus downtown every day to be there for 8.30 am. I had to wear a suit and tie – yeah, maybe I clean up nice but I’d rather not. I had to endure boring conversations with boring co-workers and curtail my true personality. But the worst thing I had to deal with was the manager from Hades! She belittled me and berated me and I was bewildered and bemoaned my situation. I have said this often as a joke – and don’t take offense as since then I own a dog and would never do it – that during that time if I had a dog, I would kick it when getting home – that’s how horrible she made my life.   I would cringe when I would see her coming up to me from the corner of my eye and then one day I just lost it with her. I think I quit but I probably was fired. The best thing ever to have happened. I am not corporate world material. I am not Commerce material. Yes, I can do left-brained things with ease but I enjoy and am truly a right-brained person. If not for you CIBC manager and the tumult that took place for me, I would not have walked through the doors that led me into teaching and for that, I truly thank you for all that you put me through to get me to see that I was not happy and needed a life change!

February 11 – my right hand man

202/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. If you work, you’ve been in meetings. Meetings that go on forever and ever and ….well, if you work, you know what I mean. Some of these meetings you have no control of and you must attend; whereas, others you end up being a part of because you want to make a change and the only way to do it is to be a part of the process. In my current role, I am the chair of the Professional Development Committee not by choice but because the position went unseated for a few months and since I was taking on the responsibilities anyways, I was asked to take on the designation as well. I didn’t want to as teaching already is a draining job but sometimes I’m not thinking straight and just do things 😉 But seriously, I wanted to make a change in what was happening at the school level and think I, along with the committee, have organized workshops and days that albeit don’t meet everyone’s needs, do try to provide staff with something they can benefit from. Now speaking of the committee, I have a good group that I work with but my right hand man is just that – someone who has been at my side and picking up my slack but also offering support in everything I have taken on by just being there. Greg T was a new staff member a year after me at McNair and last year we both joined the committee. From the get-go, he and I have been working together to get things accomplished and make Pro Development something of value. The committee along with Greg and myself were able to get together a Whistler retreat venue for one of our days and when I needed someone to co-pilot a new educational technology, Greg was my go-to guy who said yes and here we are using Freshgrade in the classroom. We are currently organizing a 5 school joint day where Greg and I have attended every afterschool meeting arranging things behind the scenes to make next Friday a success. I have gotten to know Greg more because of our work on the committee than I would have ever just by passing each other in the hallways. I totally appreciate your support, assistance and camaraderie in this role that I fell into and instead of just a committee member, I consider you as joint Pro-D chair because I value your input in what we are doing. Thank you Greg for your hours of dedication to ensuring that we, as a team, provide something that our staff may see as worthwhile and also for being by my side in those meetings and acting as a sounding board for decisions that I don’t have to make unilaterally!!