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 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!

July 9 – it’s all elementary

350/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I have been asked a few times why I chose to be a high school teacher over an elementary school teachers and my response jokingly has been that I don’t want to be touched with germy hands.  I never, ever considered elementary.  I just knew that I was suited for high school.  The students there would get my sarcasm.  I would end up making the elementary kids cry.  The students in high school/listen/follow the same pop culture icons.  The elementary kids would go home and tell their parents and I’d be in a whole world of trouble 😉  I have also joked about the calm nature, soothing voices, and just general loving nature of elementary teachers – totally not me!!  For the past week, I have been part-time employed assisting kindergarten to grade 7 summer school!  I did it last year as well.  Totally outside of my comfort zone.  They touched me!  LOL  I had to tell them to keep their distance.  I watched the elementary teachers working with them – first time ever I saw close up the difference between high school and elementary and I was in awe.  These teachers were amazing.  So good with the students.  So suited to be doing the job they were doing.  I also look back to my elementary years and I had some amazing teachers.  I reflect on both my kids teachers and they too were amazing and my kids loved elementary school because they felt important and acknowledged.  Yes, the argument could be made that it is the nature of the classroom and the school but I do think it has a lot to do with the type of teachers that are in elementary school.  Just as I know that I would not be suited for that type of role, they probably know that they are ideal for the job they are in.  The patience and the general caring nature that is so second nature to my elementary sistren and brethren is what makes them the perfect people to be in their role.  Thank you to my own elementary teachers in shaping who I am.  Thank you to my both my children’s elementary teachers for helping create the adult and teenager I have today.  If not for my summer school job, I wouldn’t have seen how amazing you all are in what you do for all of us!

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!

July 4 -Mr C in charge

345/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Company yes men and women!  We know who they are!  Most of us are initially befuddled when they get a promotion/rise in the ranks but then it all makes sense – they are company yes men/women.  They get moved on up because they are going to keep towing the line in the same manner it has always been and not necessarily for the benefit of the greater good but just following the directives from up above.  In all my years as an educator, there has only been one administrator that I can say pushed the envelope – hell, he tore it open.  In my opinion while working with him, he made decisions that benefited those directly involved and not to be the popular company man and that is a quality that I, along with several others, greatly admire.  Mike C was the administrator that I went to when I would have a question and also in those rare instances I needed advice on how to best deal with a student.  He didn’t mince words nor sugarcoat things – he gave me exactly the advice I needed in the moment.  When I had to choose an administrator to evaluate my teaching of the Psychology 12 curriculum, without hesitation, I went to Mike and asked him to watch me teach as I knew I was going to get an honest evaluation with practical advice on how to best improve my practice for myself, not for some vague pedagogical reasoning being espoused as the doctrine of the day.  I have not worked with Mike since my Burnett years – well over a decade ago but as my son entered high school, Mike became the vice principal of the same school and I was beyond ecstatic as I knew that he would say it like it should be said when it came to my son but he also would be the guy who would give me real advice if need be.  I take comfort in the fact that Mike is there as an administrator and I know my son also appreciates Mike’s realness.  Here’s to you Mr. C – a rarity but so greatly appreciated!

July 2 – delineation

343/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   Initially I thought it would be awkward to have my kids going to school in the same district and early on it was.  During my daughter’s kindergarten year, the teacher released our daughter to my mother who unbeknownst to us, came to pick her up.  There were only two of us who were supposed to pick her up – my wife and myself – and well, we were both freaking out.  Yes, the teacher was frantic too and after a couple of hours, we finally had figured out that my mother had taken our daughter to our house – after several phone calls to other students and one remembering a lady picking her up and my daughter going willingly.  Because I complained about what happened to the principal, I was reprimanded by an official as I was a teacher first and should not be disparaging other teachers??!!  Uhm, what??  I argued that I was a parent first when it came to my child and I was not disparaging anyone but thinking about the whereabouts of my child.  Not once were my feelings acknowledged as a parent and how I must have been feeling.  Bureaucratic rhetoric was spewed.  The conversation went back and forth until I said that I could easily go to the media.  I wasn’t planning to and it was an idle threat but I was so very angry that my job was to supercede my life as a parent.  I calmed down and repeated that I would do the same thing if it were to happen next time; however, I realized that I also had to create some boundaries.  That type of colossal incident aside, I knew there would be situations where I might come into conflict with fellow teachers in regards to teaching ideologies or grading practices or whatever the case may be.  From that moment on, whenever it came to parent/teacher critiques (moreso in elementary I have noticed than in secondary), my wife would go into those meetings.  She would give her thoughts and advice on what was and was not working for both my daughter and later my son.  I took most of the parent teacher interviews in high school which were (for my daughter) and are (for my son) easy going conversations.  No, I am still not happy as to what took place and how it was “resolved” by the powers that be but I am backhandedly acknowledging you for delineating roles and for me to know to where I as teacher and I as parent stood.  Yes, you definitely had an impact on me (not necessarily what I expected) but I hope I also had an impact on you as to what it means to be a parent and a teacher in the same district.