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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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!

May 25 – real world learning

305/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I went through the motions.  At UBC.  During my Commerce degree.  I did as I was asked.  Didn’t question anything.  All textbook work.  No course really inspired me.  I knew I needed a future and got my education.  And they fed me my education in the traditional way – lecture and assignments.  Until my 4th year (of a 5 year program).  This was the year I declared my major (Marketing) and actually enjoyed some of the things I was learning.  However, still most of the courses were instructor led.  It wasn’t until I was in a course led by this funky diva (well before En Vogue coined the term) named June.  A statuesque older black woman who I’m imagining was a visiting lecturer as I don’t recall her being faculty.  She taught one of the elective Marketing classes and we had to apply what we learned – no, not in a case study or simulation but working with a real car manufacturer.  I can’t recall which one but it was a major player and they were in the test phase of introducing a new model on the market and our class created marketing campaigns for their launch to be evaluated by executives.  This was a first for me and something that I haven’t forgotten as it has permeated my teaching to this very day.  I try to organize real world learning whenever I can.  I am not saying that I don’t lecture or give notes and assignments but I also get the students fully immersed when it comes to learning.  From my Psychology students working with Kindergartners and Grade 2s applying Piaget and Kohlberg’s theories to my Marketing students creating campaigns for local Steveston restaurants to my Business students opening an hour long business venture competing with other groups and being judged on sales made.  Yes, this is a nightmare for me to organize and perhaps not appreciated by all students in the moment but I know that once they reflect, the experience was invaluable – that’s the way I felt in June’s class.  I will continue to teach in this manner until I retire and I have June to thank for instilling this sentiment in me!

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.

January 26 – from babysitter to teacher

186/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Up until these gratitude posts, I thought my first few jobs were at McD’s, Bootlegger and A&A Records but I realized that I also had a babysitting job in the neighbourhood. I actually don’t recall how I got the job – probably through word of mouth (and now that I think about it, why wasn’t it my sister who was doing it – not being sexist but I don’t recall a single guy in high school babysitting LOL). The A—–r’s were an Indian family also living on the same street but were of a different background than that of my Sikh parents – I believe their last name was of Sanskrit origin and they were Hindu. The father and mother were both professors at UBC – I was dumbfounded as up until that moment, I had never met anyone who was Indian in a position of academia and here were a married couple living in my neighbourhood. I somehow think that meeting them led me to believe I could become something other than what I was used to seeing in my immediate and extended family – a labourer/blue collar worker. The children were well behaved – the daughter R (whom I was never told outright) was a high functioning Down’s Syndrome child and the son M (whom also I was never told outright) was on the other spectrum, a genius. Both kids wanted me to read to them at night and these were not everyday Disney classics – the books the parents had selected were intellectually challenging and yes, not what I expected I would be reading. There was also no cable – just basic channels and thus, I spent a lot of time doing my homework while the kids were sleeping. The thing that I most remember is both parents talking to me before heading out (which was often as they had many university dinners) and telling me that I could definitely become something of myself specifically Dr. A taking me aside and motivating me to do well in school. He had said to me that being Indian, I had to work twice as hard to get half as much and that has always stuck in my head – not necessarily because I feel that it is so but I feel that perhaps on a subconscious level I felt it so and that’s why I may have the drive, stamina, work ethic and perfectionism that permeates my very being. As is with most of the gratitude honorees, I have lost touch with them but because of tonight’s blog entry, I did Google search them and was pleasantly surprised to see entries, videos, pictures of them in their respective careers/endeavours. Thank you to the A——-r’s for giving me that gentle subconscious push to be all that I could possibly be.

January 21 – failure is an option

181/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. As I previously mentioned, I have been on a UBC bent for a few of my recent gratitude posts and on top of that been having discussions with my students about not being perfect. Tonight, all that is culminating into a post about the professors who failed me in three of five courses in my first semester of my first year of university. Yes, you may say that I failed myself but I will disagree and you will understand as you read. Yes, you may say that I wrote about this topic back at 70/365 but that was in relation to my counselor at UBC believing in me – tonight is in honour of actually failing and learning from it. Because of bullying, I put all my energy into school work as I had no other social outlet in high school. I did not have friends and I did not play any sports. Yes, I worked at McDonald’s and worked hard there. However, in school, I exceled. I received no marker lower than a B in high school in any of my classes. I wouldn’t say that I found it easy but with effort, I was able to do well. I even scored well in PE classes as there was written components that offset the physical aspects. When I entered first year university, I thought it would be a breeze. Being in Advanced English in Grade 12, I opted for regular English 100 at UBC thinking I would sail through that class and took a Statistics class as well as Economics, Anthropology and Psychology. At the end of the semester, I ended up failing three of the classes. I honestly thought I understood what I was doing and when I wrote the exams and received my year end marks, I did not give the professors what they were looking for. Not until later years did I realize that high school had spoon fed me and here I was at university not only left holding the spoon but it was a fork and required much different maneuvering for success. At the time, I will be honest, I cried and came home and lost it in front of my mother. Never having failed academically, I thought my world would come crashing down and that I would be disowned and I was a big disappointment. Although she didn’t show me any physical comfort (that hug still eludes me), she was very supportive in her words and asked if I could take the classes over – something I didn’t even consider. Of course, I ended up getting my degree but the greatest memory I have is of failing. It was so very necessary for me as it taught me one of the biggest life lessons – I am human and I am not perfect. I share my story with all my students and I have those professors to thank. I am glad they failed me and I didn’t know I needed it. Failure is an option as long as you learn from it. Failure also builds your character and I also needed that. I didn’t realize how much of an impact that first year and those first failing marks had on my character but I do owe it all to those three professors.

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 😉