July 5 – facing challenges

346/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve mentioned on several occasions that working at UBC for three years with adults who were becoming teachers (student teachers) was the greatest professional development opportunity I had for my own teaching practice.  I not only instructed these men and women (ranging from their early 20s to late 50s) in methodologies but also viewed and supported many of them during their respective practicums.  The greatest challenge for me was in this latter area as sometimes I would not see eye to eye with the classroom instructor in that they thought the student teacher was not up to par; however, in hindsight, that was the greatest growth for me as I was challenged to work with two different adults and offer suggestions while trying to maintain relations with both parties.  Two of my – yes, I still refer to the student teachers as mine 😉 – student teachers that I really enjoyed working with were D and M (from two different years).  They were both men with young families.  They both came into teaching for all the right reasons.  With both guys, I had great conversations and I also had a lot of respect for them in changing their respective careers in which they were making much more than a starting teacher but deciding to go with their passion and enter teaching.  I was D’s and M’s practicum supervisor and got to see them teach in the classroom.  Although they were at two different schools, at two different times, they both ended up with sponsor teachers who had these lofty expectations in regards to work load, revisions, classroom management etc (perhaps forgetting what it was to be a student teacher so long ago).  Both of them rose to the challenges they faced but at times not to the satisfaction of their school advisors.  These two situations presented me with some of my greatest learning during my entire time at UBC.  I knew both D and M would go on to be great teachers and I recall having several conversations with them about their own expectations but to put those aside and just to get through the practicums.  I also learned how to be a support system for them and to give advice especially when I did not agree with the critiques.  I honed my diplomacy skills working with the advisors, refined my motivational skills and really worked on my people skills.   I didn’t know it at the time that all this was taking place for me as I just wanted the two of them to have successful practicums and in the end, they both did and ended up with jobs.  I am pretty sure that both of them wouldn’t have wanted the practicums they had but I also think they are better teachers as a result.  I am virtually positive that they helped me during their practicums as I’m sure that wasn’t their goal at the time but both D and M made me into a better educator.  I thank you two and I hope you enjoy teaching as much as I have and do!

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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!

May 21 – life motto

301/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Has anyone ever said something to you that has changed the way you think about life? I didn’t think it was possible but it happened to me about ten years ago. As has happened a few times over these gratitude posts, I don’t recall the person outright as in this case the person was a stranger in a meeting I was also attending but it’s what he said that stayed with me. The subject matter was about making changes in life and taking the first few steps. I learned a lot in that session but the most interesting thing came from this stranger. He made an observation that most people are afraid to make a change as they are “putting an ending into a beginning”. I thought it was an insightful remark but didn’t truly understand its meaning until about a year later. I had a very comfortable job at the school I taught at for about 15 years. Because of my Masters program at UBC, I applied for and was offered a job on contract for 3 years teaching beginning teachers how to teach. I couldn’t make the decision as I was worried about what would happen after the three years if I even lasted that long. Where would I end up teaching once I finished my contract was the big question that was standing in my way. Yes, it’s normal to question the beginning of change but I was so focused on the ending that I wouldn’t allow a beginning. I then understood what that stranger had meant. I was already deciding how the 3 years would end (or rather focusing on something that no one can predict) rather than focusing on other considerations. Once I stopped worrying about the end result, I could actually contemplate the start and by weighing things, I took on the job and it was an amazing experience. Yes, the ending wasn’t ideal to begin with – starting at a new high school that I wasn’t initially fond of but am happy with today. That stranger’s comment also helped with many other life decisions from trivial to monumental such as starting the writing of this blog to making the move to take a break from my relationship. I now live life by that motto – not putting an ending into a beginning – and have that stranger to thank.

May 1 – le bibliotheque

281/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Sometimes you just gotta know how to play the game.  That is the biggest lesson I learned while attending university.  You had to learn which professors to take that would meet your own learning style.  You had to arrange your courses so you wouldn’t be stuck in traffic getting to and from campus.  You had to choose the right group partners who carried their own weight while adding value to the project.  You had to select the electives that gave you what you wanted but not what you didn’t (discussions vs readings).  However, my greatest learning took place while doing research.  I didn’t know how to use a library and no I’m not a foreign student – born and raised in Canada but the library was just daunting and a place I tried to avoid.  However, it was inevitable that I would be spending several hours in those buildings during my university career (who knew there was more than one library on a campus?? – not I!!!).  I soon learned that the librarians loved taking care of clueless students like me.  I can honestly say that not once did I have to hunt for books.  The librarians took my topics and narrowed them down for me and then found periodicals and books and magazine articles all relevant to my study.  Most of them even looked for the books and helped me set up the organization of my paper and I would allow them to.  First, I had no clue what to do anyways and second, this was their passion and who was I to deny them 😉  Yes, I played up my dumbness (No, I don’t know how to use the microfiche – oh hell yes, that’s the era I grew up in) and over exaggerated my thanks but I needed all the help I could and got it.  But seriously, I was very grateful that these men and women assisted me and made that one component of my university life that much easier.  Thank you to all librarians but especially those during my university years who got me through it with relative ease and very little pain 🙂

April 26 – rock, PAPER, scissors

276/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Straight out of high school, I entered UBC in the Commerce program.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life – I had an inkling but it wasn’t fleshed out – so Commerce offered a door that would lead to many other doors.  The entire program was theoretical and one did analyses of various problems or led discussions or worked on case studies but not once did we have to write a paper.  As well, I did not have to write a formal research (or otherwise) paper in high school English.  In my second year of Commerce with all my electives being in the Arts (the “ologies” as I like to call them), I was tasked with writing a paper in my Psychology 200 (and some odd number) course.   Paper?  I had no clue what that meant.  I read the outline of what was required and got the research material and decided to go ahead and write this paper.  Not thinking much about it, I submitted it with a smug satisfaction that this Arts stuff is way easier than Commerce.  I received that paper (I’m sure marked by a Teaching Assistant (TA)) with all sorts of red marks – yes, red marks outlining my flawed arguments, my grammatical structure weaknesses, my errors in proper formatting – basically every error a high school student would have made.  Needless to say, I also received a failing grade.  Yes, university was a rude awakening for me as a year earlier, I had failed 3 courses and now here I was failing papers.  I went and talked to the professor who obviously didn’t read my paper but gave me advice on how to write future papers and who to talk with about such tasks.  Being the keener that I am, I paid serious attention and learned how to write a proper research paper.  This is something I wished I had learned how to do let alone correctly but at all back in high school or first year university.  I am very grateful for having taken the course and having that TA make all sorts of corrections as I could have gone through Commerce without taking any electives outside the program and never learned how to write.  I am further grateful as most of my Masters’ program required the writing and submission of numerous papers and failing a paper in my 40s would have been much tougher to take than failing a paper at 19/20.  Because of that TA, I make, yes make, my Psychology 12 students write a paper so they have the experience under their belt regardless of whether they pursue further education.  Thank you TA not only from me but the trickle down effect it had on my own students – developing such an important skill.

April 18 – latin lessons

268/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Back in 1991, I was enrolled in the teacher education program at UBC as a student teacher.  I loved it.  I tried hard and the rewards paid off.  The practicum wasn’t that difficult for me as I had great advisors and although I did have a couple of unique experiences that I’ve written about such as never being evaluated by my advisor ;), I learned a great deal about education but even more about people.  One of the people that I met only briefly during a spring course was a Latin guy from someplace in South America but he had a lasting impact on me although sadly I don’t remember his name and never kept in touch (we were not in the days of Facebook back then).  He was a fellow student teacher in my Anthropology class and we, with two others, ended up working together on our final culminating project.  We decided to conduct an anthropological study on Graduation as a Rite of Passage.  Here we were filming the graduation ceremony at my practicum school with interviews being completed with students, teachers and parents when my fellow partner told me that this was all new to him.  I was in shock to say the least!?  He explained that in his country, they didn’t celebrate graduation in this way – it was a non-event.  This whole process was foreign to him but fascinating.  I didn’t know how to respond but then asked him to be a part of our project as a subject even though he was a part of our group.  I told the other group members and our project took a slight but important turn – assuming that people were familiar with a concept.  That was the first time I realized that I saw things a little too ego-centrically at time and that people may not be familiar with my frame of reference.  It was an important lesson for me and one that stays with me to this day when I’m in my classroom – people don’t necessarily know what you think they may know and to be aware of it.  Yes, we ended up getting a perfect score on the project because of the anthropological twist to our study but the more valuable learning took place during the process thanks to my Latin project partner and for that I am forever grateful!

April 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.

April 9 – i was a frat boy

259/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Guaranteed you did not know this about me:  I was a frat boy!  Yup, Delta Kappa Epsilon – the Dekes!  This was my dream as I was growing up.  I watched tv shows (American tv shows) and saw sororities and fraternities and wanted to be a part of the brotherhood.  Growing up geeky, awkward and friendless and then becoming that proverbial swan upon entrance into university, I did what any shunned person did – focused on my looks and used them for popularity!  Okay, I kid but yeah, I lost all the baby fat and decided to rush fraternities during my first year as a joke not thinking I was going to be a pledge.  But think again and there it was – Delta Kappa Epsilon took me.  From loser high school boy to popular first year pledge with instant friends in all years of Commerce (my degree) and high fives all over campus, I was in heaven because up until I never was accepted by my peers and so I ate this attention up.  Yes, I was the ethnic quotient for the fraternity as there was no other Indo-Canadian brother but I didn’t consider that – I was in.  I went through initiation and all was awesome until I started failing classes left, right and center (yes, 3 classes in first year).  Was told by my Commerce advisor that either I focused on my degree and leave the fraternity or change my degree and stick with my brotherhood.  Hardest decision ever but I went for education over brotherhood and yes, getting out of a fraternity is no easy task.  I’d like to think and am going to think that my stint there was because they liked me and what I brought and the me of 30 years ago needed that so bad and thus, I will never forget the Dekes for letting me be on the inside and popular as that was all I longed for growing up and I finally got it.  Do I wish I stayed on?  Hell yes but it wasn’t meant to be but that initial acceptance boosted my confidence like no other experience before that and for that, I am forever grateful – thank you my brothers from Delta Kappa Epsilon for changing me from that moment on and letting me believe in myself!

March 4 – nice guys finish first

223/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Some of these gratitude posts just happen to work out in that I write and publish them on the day that I have seen/will see the gratitudee. Today’s post falls in that category. I met Mitch while I was an instructor at UBC 6 years ago. He was in the Business Education Teacher program and I was the instructor for all his methodologies courses as well as some of the other classes he was in. Although some of the members of the co-hort were there to jump through the requisite hoops to get their degrees in order to be able to teach and I was just a means to an end, this was not the case with Mitch. He genuinely enjoyed the program and went out of his way to gain a better understanding of concepts thereby encouraging me as the instructor as I felt that I was making a difference. We have since remained friends and I have seen him go from various substitute/temporary jobs to his first teaching contract (I think it’s permanent) as well as become a first time father. Mitch is one of the kindest guys that I know and he is also very genuine – promised to go to a Vancouver Giants game to hang out and where most of those types of promises are empty and never come to fruition, not with Mitch as we’re seeing a game courtesy of him tonight. I have never, ever seen him get mad and don’t think he can and if he does, he does in a very calm manner – something I envy and admire. I appreciate that we’ve kept our friendship going even though we hang once every year or so but engage in good conversations and laughs when we do.   Looking forward to my first Giants game ever!