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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July 20 – so young

361/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Back in the day, my Accounting teacher told me that in life there are three definites: death, taxes and car accidents.  That hit me.  I didn’t know about any of them at age 17.  I learned about taxes pretty quickly – take home vs gross pay – pretty ugly.  Yes, I’ve had my fair share of fender benders – small accidents thankfully.  I did not experience any immediate family loss until well into my 40s.  Yes, so very rare and very fortunate but I did attend funerals prior to this.  Sadly, as a teacher, they were of my students.  I have been teaching high school since 1991 and have taught well into the thousands of young minds.  They are perpetually 17 or 18 years old to me.  Lives full of potentiality!  A lot of them feel like extended family because I get to know them as young adults since I teach grade 11 and 12.  With the advent of social media, I have gotten to keep in touch with them and get to see what they are getting up to in their lives and I vicariously take pride in their successes and when there are failures in their lives, I also feel that sense of loss.  Thus to hear/find out that these young, amazing people have passed away well before their prime was something that I was not prepared for.   The one that struck me the most was Chris.  He was in my and the school’s (Burnett) first graduating class ever.  Chris had it all.  Height, model looks, girlfriend on his arm, athleticism, university acceptance, amazing family and a wonderful and humble personality.  Always respectful to me and constantly smiling and just an all around nice guy.  This is exactly who I wanted to have as a son if I ever had a son (which would happen a couple years later).  The day that I heard that he was killed in a car accident shortly after graduation devastated me.  This was the first death of a person I had known.  It was a student.  There should be distance.  This should not affect me.  I didn’t know him that well.  He was just in my class.  I tried making the excuses but it did affect me.  He was like a “child” to me as are many of the students that I teach and end up bonding with.  He was an amazing young man with his whole life in front of him.  He has stuck in my mind.  He has forever affected me.  Yes, there have been other students.  None as young as him yet none of them any less important but Chris was that special young man.  Chris made me realize that in my career as teacher, the students that I work with will also affect me just as much as I affect them and all I wish upon their graduations is not only for their happiness but that they lead long and happy lives.  Yes Chris, you are gone, but you are never forgotten!  Thank you for coming into my life and showing me that teaching is more than just teaching – it’s about connections, memories and relationships.

July 17 – save the last dance

358/365 -people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I am the type of guy who thinks that everything in life will always work out.  The philosophy that I employ in my teaching life is that I, as teacher, am not there to mold students but to rather unfold them as they bring to my class (and to me) a sense of who they are.  Education is not to indoctrinate but to introduce.   I feel that I and my colleagues are there to get students to enjoy something about school and to try and reach a potential – not necessarily their full potential but to start on it.  That has been mindset when it comes to my students and perhaps that is naïve on my part but that’s what I believe and I have met many of them as adults and see how they are living their lives and I’m really happy for them as they are on that path.  Earlier this year, and don’t judge me here, I, with a buddy, ended up at an, ahem, a gentlemen’s club.  We just walked in on a lark and ended up at the stage – let me repeat, don’t judge 😉  We are having beers and talking to each other and sadly, which is normally the case, not paying much attention to the entertainment.  As I’m engaged, I hear “Mr Sangha?  Is that you?”  8/ I was in shock.  I looked up and I immediately recognized A!!  I had taught her more than a decade ago in grade 12 and well, here she was – uhm, in all her glory – on stage.  I could not look at her and she sensed my unease and comfort.  My buddy was in shock – no doubt as I was stunned beyond belief.  I sat there, consciously avoiding any inadvertent gaze at the stage because to me, my former students are perpetually 17 and 18.  A finished her set and robed up and came right up to me.  All eyes in the establishment were on us as it was a weird bonding but no one knew she was my former student.  She gave me a hug and as I do with my former students, I gave her one – I would not have rejected her as this the exact moment where I realized that I had no right to judge.  Before this moment in time, this type of entertainer didn’t really elicit any emotion from me (be it positive or negative) as I didn’t think there would be anything ever linking us but here was super smart, keener A in that same role.  We sat, had drinks and talked about how she got to where she was.  It was a great heart to heart and I understood a lot more about her life circumstances that brought her to this moment. She could tell I was dejected and she told me that I was still one of the teachers that she remembered and that she hoped I wasn’t disappointed in her.  That did it – damn, tears welled up – here is this stunning biracial beauty who was an athlete and academic achiever in front of me again and everything else I had just seen (actually avoided) and heard was out the window.  I gave her another hug.  Wished her well.  That moment stays with me and now I realize that yes, I can have expectations for my students but they have their realities and just because I have defined potentialities doesn’t mean that they aren’t reaching them – just a different set of them given their life circumstances.  Thank you A for schooling me!

July 15 – school’s out forever

356/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This gratitude post is for every former student who has stayed in touch with me/kept in contact with me.  For those who are on my Facebook feed and will give an occasional comment or a like on some ridiculous life event that I have posted, I appreciate you.  For those who spot me in a restaurant or pub and come up and shake hands/give me a hug, I am honoured.  For those who are going about their life be it at an event or working in the community and I happen to be there unknowingly and you go out of your way to say hi, I am moved.  For those of you who throw out a text and ask to connect over beers/movie/dinner, I feel privileged.  For those of you who take it upon yourselves (years later) to send me a shout out telling me how I affected you positively, I am beyond words.  I feel I have been very fortunate to have become a teacher but it’s all because of the amazing former students that I got to work with.  The majority were from Burnett – 16 years’ worth!! I have only been at McNair for four years so the legacy is just being created as of yet but there are the rare few that fit into this category and I was only in Vancouver for two years at different schools and thus, made minimal connections.  Although this gratitude post might be short in length, it’s huge in how I feel about the students I have worked with – just because you didn’t get a personal shout out during this past year doesn’t mean you didn’t impact me in some form as we all have different ways of connecting but thank you to all of you who have passed through my doors but more importantly to all of you that I still “connect” with.

July 14 -it’s how you say the words

355/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Most of you are probably not aware of the following about me:  I have a speech impediment.  I stutter.  I grew up with it and it was much worse back when I was in elementary.  Oh yeah, if you have been reading these gratitude posts and know about my childhood – just add one more thing in the mix to be bullied about 😉  In my case, the thing that made my stuttering much worse was if someone noticed it and reacted to it and I noticed that reaction – well, my brain was thrown into flux and I would be stuck on a particular word and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get past it.  That was the thing – I wasn’t supposed to get past it, I was supposed to switch tactics for my form of stuttering.  My speech pathologist, who I totally don’t remember but had one of the biggest influences on my speech impediment, gave me two pieces of advice.  First, stop the moment I was getting stuck on a word and immediately think of a synonym or a couple of words having the same meaning.  Most of you who know me probably don’t realize I do that – at times, I try to feign looking contemplative but I probably come off as a bit slow but I’m okay with it as it is giving me that breathing room to continue on speaking.  It’s much harder to do in a classroom when I am teaching and that is where I notice my stuttering even moreso.  This is where my speech pathologist’s second piece of advice came in handy – tell people about my condition.  I haven’t really told friends.  Only immediate family know (like my sister and mother and a few cousins and aunts).  I guess you as reader now know.  However, I tell all of my classes/students about my stuttering because early on in my career, I kept it a secret and when it would happen, I would hear snickering and of course, that added to my embarrassment which in turn increased my stuttering and I would be stuck on a word for 30 seconds to a minute.  Now, I take the bull by the horns and let the students know what my inability is.  I tell them that it’s not if it will happen, it’s when and when it does, please don’t make me aware of it as I know what’s happening and will quickly try to correct myself with a synonym.  Most often, I’m pretty quick at it but other times, I have to consciously stop, refocus and start again and I honestly can say that I haven’t had a student in the last decade or so get me flustered because they have empathy for my speech impediment.  Thank you to my speech pathologist for the two greatest pieces of advice that have helped me so much in life and career!

July 13 – judgment day

354/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  You are reading a book or watching a movie and kind of enjoying it when all of a sudden someone comes up to you and tells you how much they don’t like it or the problem with the plot or how it could have been “done” differently to make it turn out so much better.  Ever happened to you?  Ever happened but in relation to a person?  This is the reality of the high school teacher.  Many teachers and administrators have an opinion about a kid that they have taught/had an experience with.  They feel that they must share that opinion with you – that they must warn you/let you know the perils you might face with that student in your class.  In all of my 25 years of teaching, I have never, ever let anyone’s opinions or thoughts dictate how I deal with students.  Back in the 90s at Burnett, I finally got to teach grade 12 students in my electives of Law, Psychology, Marketing and Tourism.  What I loved about that course load was that I had the whole gamut in my class – from the bright, keeners to the ones who were waiting for me to impress them to the ones who were just put in the class to the ones who wanted to learn but were to cool to admit it.  Tanya was one of these girls – probably in the latter category 😉  I liked Tanya.  Found her to be very intelligent and was always the most respectful to me.  However, other teachers and the administration did not see her this way.  They would harp on about her attendance – let’s just say that she usually showed up to one class – mine – and we will leave it at that.  They talked about how she was a bad influence.  They talked about how she was not a good community member.  I didn’t understand why they were telling me this.  Was I supposed to side with them?  Was I supposed to use that to judge her abilities in my class?  Tanya did well in my class and was always a positive force in the class – maybe it was an act but give that girl an Oscar then because I totally thought (and know) she was genuine with me.  However, towards the end of the year – her grade 12 year – she was a bit dejected and I sensed it.  I asked her what was up and she told me.  The administration, who had previously suspended her, now decided to punish her by not allowing her to walk across the stage for valedictory for something she did outside of the school.  I told her that she had every right to go – this was not dinner/dance/prom but the most important event for her parents.  The culmination of her public school education.  The night her parents got to see their daughter walk across the stage.  Tanya had already decided that she was not going to go because she thought it was a done deal.  I told her what her mother had to do – and I’ll put it out right here – to contact the Superintendent and make the case that any other punishment could suffice but this one was too harsh – not negating the consequences but reassessing which ones would be the best.  Tanya didn’t feel it would work and I actually wasn’t too sure myself but I just felt that one can’t make a judgment call because certain people see a person in one way and decide to punish them in other ways.  Well, Tanya walked that stage – no strutted that stage and dealt with other consequences but she reinforced a greater lesson for me – do not allow other people to tell you how to deal with, live with, interact with, relate with, get along with, deal with, just be with others because they see them in a way.  Do not allow people to put their opinions of others onto you.  Make your own calls about people based on the way they treat you and how they deal with you and go from there.  I always did that but I needed Tanya and her situation to just validate it for me!  And just so everyone knows, Tanya today is an amazing mom who is way beyond that girl in high school.  Thank you Tanya for reinforcing in me that judging a person based on their interactions with you is the only way to judge a person if you must judge them to begin with!

July 11 – i’ll be good to you

352/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I know there are sayings in regards to being nice to people now because they could come back later in your life to help you or haunt you or something similar.  I have no clue what those sayings are exactly but I get the gist.  I have lived life with this motto for as long as I can remember.  Only once has it ever happened to me but not in the traditional sense of the saying.  Late 90s, I leave my house to head to the gym.  Driving down my street called Riverdale.  At regular speed level and then bam, pow, bang – holy Batman!  I hit the brakes.  I recall a blur in front of my hood, then on my windshield and then over the top of the car and falling off the trunk onto the street through my rearview mirror.  I am in shock.  I am sitting there.  I start to shake.  I look back at the rearview.  It’s a boy.  He’s on the street.  Rivers of blood from his head.  I can’t compute.  What has happened?  My Law 12 teacher’s words come into my head – anytime a driver hits a passenger, the driver is 100% at fault.  I am literally cold.  After what seems to be hours yet only mere minutes, I get out of the car.  I see the car that was coming in the opposite direction.  The male driver and female passenger run out and she yells “We saw everything!!!”.  I’m on the verge of tears as this is it.  The end of my new career as teacher.   Oh, have I forgotten to mention that I live and teach in the same neighbourhood.  Out come running people.  I hear “Mr Sangha???”  “Mr Sangha, what happened?!!”  “Oh my God, Mr Sangha, you hit someone”.  I am embarrassed.   I am upset.  I am still in shock.  My mind races years ahead – me in prison, my kids on the streets.  I’m shaking – oh, yes, I am wearing shorts and a tshirt.  All a blur.  Fire engine, multiple police cars, ambulance and to make matters worse, as they are redirecting traffic, the mother of the child just hit happens to be driving by and yes, sees her son.  Kill me now!  The two witnesses come over and give me hugs.  I don’t understand.  They tell me that they saw the kid run into the street after a ball and knew that I would never see him and that it was not my fault.  They tell the police this.  The police officer tells me that I’m good, I did nothing wrong.  I’m looking at the blood.  The paramedic tells me that the lip bleeds like no other organ.  I am driven home.  I am in shock.  If I drank then – yes, surprise, surprise, I didn’t back then – I probably would have become an alcoholic.  All forgotten.  Six or seven years later, I am teaching Psychology 12.   Ask the students to write a journal entry about a psychological experience that affected them for the rest of their lives.  At home reading and marking the assignment.  As I’m reading Adam’s, I start to freak out.  “I’m playing ball in my friend’s driveway and go get the ball.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a White Honda Civic comes barreling down the street at me.  Takes me out.  I go flying over the car and end up breaking my arm and with some other fractures.  End up in the hospital for a few weeks and off of school for a month.”  I sit at my kitchen table.  Dumbfounded.  I write him a comment – “Let’s talk”.  We do.  He laughs.  I laugh.  We hug it out.  He doesn’t really remember everything but he was told I was the teacher.  He is in my class.  I was scared that he would hold it against me.  He never did.  We had a great year.  You rock Adam.  I needed that.  We affect people.  Positively or negatively.  How we react to that affection is what matters especially when it comes to mistakes.  I am so glad that I had the interaction with you years later.  I am so glad that we got to talk about what took place.  I am so glad that I learned a valuable life lesson.  I could have reacted in all sorts of different ways – was told to sue the family for the damage to the car – bullshit!  I am so glad that you came back into my life and let me move on and realize that my decisions/choices on how I responded came back to me but in positive ways.  Yes, I screwed up your grade 7 year Adam 😉 but you gave me a great life-lesson going forward – be good to people and they will be good to you later on!

June 27 – Burnett

338/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  If you’ve read my Facebook posts in the last week, you no doubt have heard that I finally have consciously decided that I belong at the school I have been teaching at for the past four years – in fact, I had not unpacked my boxes in all those years on some subconscious hope of perhaps moving back longing for my old school – Burnett.  It was not the students, it was not the building, it was not the teaching load – it was the people I worked with at Burnett.  I remember upon leaving to teach at UBC (7 years ago) that I made a goodbye speech and in it, I was able to talk about a significant event that I had with each and every staff member from the janitor to the principal, from the secretary to the teaching assistant, from the teachers to the business assistant – that’s how involved I was with the social aspect and making connections with all of my co-workers.  Of course, I didn’t know everyone on a deep personal level but I did know many and I valued that.  Tonight, was a Burnett year end party and I was invited as I was and will always be (according to the hostess) a Burnetter at heart.  I was excited and as soon as I got there, instantly old friendships were rekindled and current ones were tended to.  I missed talking to my friends but I also realized that I have moved on of course physically but more importantly psychologically – the unpacking of the boxes was both literal and metaphorical.  Yes, Burnett was my first real home for sixteen teaching years as I was only in Vancouver for two years (at a different high school each year) but I am no longer a part of the current Burnett.  That doesn’t mean that I no longer associate with the school but now I accept and associate with the Burnett staff but belong at McNair – that’s where I am supposed to be.  Tonight’s party revealed that Burnett had an amazing staff that I worked with over my career there and I am very grateful for sharing the space with such awesome people and want to thank everyone who made my time there enjoyable and I am so glad that I still keep in touch with so many of you – you made me that much of a better teacher!  I do the Breaker Wave in your honour!

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!

June 1 – strike a pose

312/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  After last night’s emotional, heartfelt and quite draining post, tonight’s is much more subdued and light.  When I was in high school, the classes that I enjoyed the most were some of my electives such as Art and Photography.  I remember taking my first and only photography class at Richmond High in the early 80s.  Mr Waber was my teacher.  The cameras back then had nothing on all the technological advances of today – I mean the word filter was before the fact, not after as it is today 😉  And selfie??  Not even on the horizon LOL.  Editing software – future language!!  I digress, back to Mr Waber.  He started us off with a pin-hole tin can camera and I fell in love instantly with photography as I ended up with an amazing photo because of the perspective it gave.  We had different themes for various assignments and I spent my time engaged in the work.  After that class, unfortunately I never touched a camera except for the occasional family pictures, never for artistic escape.  For most of my life, I wanted to get back into taking pictures and share them but because I was concerned as to whether I had talent and a keen eye, I shied away from it and of course, life just kept getting in the way and I made any excuse to avoid taking up photography again until just recently.  My daughter was enrolled in photo class in her high school and she exceled (winning top photo student).  Her pictures were amazing as she had an amazing digital camera.  Her teacher inspired her as had mine.  I decided then that I would start taking pictures but with my cell phone – this way I could blame it on the equipment if I really had no talent 😉  However, if you know me, you know that I don’t do anything half-heartedly – I put my heart into it and well, I certainly did with photography.  I decided to take a picture a day for a year with monthly themes and post them on Instagram – that was in 2014 and here I am in 2016 three years later and still continuing with that project!!  I have done a month of tattoos which entailed going up to complete strangers and asking to take a picture of their tattoo – I loved that month as I got to hear their stories.  I went around for a month and hunted graffiti which got me out of my neck of the woods but then one month I spent an entire in my city of Richmond taking shots.  I have taken pictures of my martini creations for a month – I had to suffer through and drink them each day (the sacrifices I make for my art 😉 ).  One of the strangest monthly themes involved going up to men and taking pictures of 31 different beards – I was only rejected once!  Thank you for Mr Waber for the initial spark and thank you to all of you who have commented about my photography as it has been a great diversion in life as well as being a way to allow me to express myself and share another part of myself with people.