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!

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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 12 – you did me wrong

353/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  How cliché? 😉  But it is so very true – I totally understand and live by that motto.  Everything that I have been through in my life has made me the guy you know.  Yeah, my life was tough but I know people have had it rougher.  I accepted my fate in life and dealt with it.  What I do wish though was that I had support growing up.  Yes, as I wind down these posts, I must throw in one final back-handed gratitude post to people who, without your non-care (for lack of a better word), made me even stronger.  You all should know by this time that my dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic.  We, as kids, were told to keep it hidden.  Deny it.  Don’t talk about it.  This was told to us by our mother.  But she was forced to tell us this as her in-laws wouldn’t accept/believe that their son/brother/brother-in-law had a mental illness.  I recall overhearing my mom being lectured that she was making things up and she had to stop phoning the police when my dad would lose it on her.  I remember also being told as a teenager that I was in collusion with my mom by having my dad institutionalized for that decade or so.  I was in shock and I had so much anger at my dad’s family.  They saw things from the outside.  We lived things from the inside.  As you may also know, my sister and I were in foster care for a short period.  We were living with different relatives at other times when my mom would be hospitalized because of my dad’s violence.  The anger stayed with me for most of my life.  I had to see these people at my dad’s funeral – these people who never were there for us growing up.  Any one of them could have stepped up and been a father figure, a true uncle but that never happened.  On my 18th or 19th birth year, my mom wanting to take me to see my paternal grandparents in India – I was lectured to by my uncles there that my mom and I (once again colluding) to steal my dad’s wealth and property there – no, they had no clue about the poverty we actually lived in growing up as my dad put my mom on an allowance and so she had to hold down multiple jobs just to care for us but I listened and festered.  I, however, did learn that three of his other siblings (two whom had committed suicide) were also afflicted by the same mental illness – I got a better understanding of my dad.  I was forgiving of my uncles and family in India as they did not have the same knowledge level as my dad’s Canadian family.  I have 100% forgiven my dad because none of what he did was in his conscious control but I can’t forgive my dad’s immediate family here in Canada.  You could have made a difference.  You could have acknowledged that there was something wrong.  You could have supported any of us, all of us.  Yes, you lay blame on us.  I’d like to think I’m a bigger person and can move on but I’m not that good – I can’t forget and I definitely can’t forgive.  I will say though that you have taught me a life lesson that not all family is there for you. Yes, this gratitude post might come off as very bitter but I think I’m entitled to this one.   I am so that much stronger in spite of/despite you and for that, you get the backhanded thank you!

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 10 – the people in your neighbourhood

351/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’m always fascinated by one’s environment and the kind of impact it has on one in regards to character formation.  I grew up in the 70s in Northwest Richmond BC – a predominantly white community with a few ethnic families.  We were told to assimilate by both our parents and by the community at large and we did.  My street – Riverdale (like the Archie comics – yes, I’m dating myself) – was host to a very diverse population in regards to socio-economic status, family types, and even ethnicities.  I remember almost every kid who lived on the street and I’d love to say that they were wonderful and left an amazing, lasting impression on me but I can’t say that.  With perhaps an exception of one or two, most were not pleasant to me.  However, that also helped shape me into the guy I am today.  My neighbours and yes, it’s my blog so I’m gonna name you – brothers Daryl and Ken R who lived right next door to me made my life a living hell (more so older Daryl with Ken following his lead).  They would spraypaint racist epithets on our driveway and no form of cleaning truly erased what was said literally and figuratively as it has stayed with me to this very.  Daryl would vandalize our home: windows broken, rip off our laundry off the line and I would have to go hunt it down on the street, throw all sorts of trash into our yard and have his buddies over to spit at me from their deck while I (remember that I am extremely overweight and nerdy) had to cut the grass.  Daryl would make fun of me when my dad would be taken to Riverview, he would say the worst racist things to my mom and I would yell back and he would laugh at my face.  My mom told me to ignore them and do what I had to and just keep the peace and although I was angry at Daryl and Ken, I did what I had to and took the abuse.  They involved neighbourhood kids like Candace and Todd, Arif and Shafik (yes, that Shafik if you live in Richmond) to join in and yes, they joined in.  There were others but I need to get off this bitter train before I start giving them all their own compartments 😉 The neighbour kids across the street, although not involved directly, saw how very unconfident I was and did their own things – siblings R, P and K, and K and her sister – nowhere near the extent of Daryl and his followers with physical things but more psychological.  At the time, along with the bullying I suffered from (see post #15) in school, I hated my life and just wished I didn’t live there but I got through.  As with that earlier bullying post, I became stronger – a Survivor.  Everything I am today is on a subconscious level in spite of all of my tormentors.   I haven’t really thought of these neighbourhood kids until today and just happened to Facebook find a few of them as I was writing this and was tempted to send them this link but I am above all that – yes, I named you and I needed to do that and yes, I hope some of you who read this post and are in touch with them will forward it to them but I am beyond the Riverdale neighbourhood kids today and so much better off given what you put me through as I am that much stronger.

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 8 – bros in law

349/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Some of these posts would have been written earlier in my 365 day journey but because of life circumstances, I wasn’t in the mental place to write them because of my personal situationship!  However, almost a year later, I am in a better place and acknowledge people who did impact me positively prior to the life events of the last few years.  I have four brothers-in-law.  Two are married to my sisters.  Two are my wife’s brothers.  I’ve talked about one of my sister’s husband already.  Tonight, it’s about my wife’s brothers.  I met Jujar and Surinder almost 25 years ago at the various pre-wedding functions that take months and months at Indian weddings! 😉 Jujar one year my senior and Surinder one year my junior.   I was excited as I had instant brothers!  I only had sisters all my life so it was cool to have these two new guys.  The two of them are pretty much exact opposites.  Jujar, the one with the cool name (nickname Ju) that I had never heard of (even to this day), is calm, easy-going, laid back and takes life as it comes.  I chuckle to myself when I think about first meeting him and his afro – but I am one to talk about hairstyles!! 😉  I can say that I have rarely, if ever, seen Ju get upset or fazed by anything.  I mean, he could have 20 extended family members show up at his house and decide they are going to spend the night and he just gets the air mattresses ready as if it’s no big deal (and to him, it isn’t) and we have an impromptu motel for the night!  Surinder is the guy who lives for the moment.  For as long as I have known him, every year he and his family are vacationing in some amazing destination that I have only dreamed of.  He makes time for his family when he can which is understandable when one is living in Texas.  He brings a sense of fun and frivolity when the families get together.  It has been great having these guys as brothers-in-law – all three of us very different, but all three of us learning from one another.

July 7 – 10 N C

348/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In my mind, I feel I live a slightly charmed life.  For all that I’ve been through, I still see the positives and I think for the most part I have been thrown back positivity in most anything I take on.  As a teacher, salary-wise, we are adequate.  We will never be millionaires and would live a decent life.  Before the inheritance I received upon my dad’s passing, I decided to get an investment property to get ahead of the game.  I bought at the height of the market in 2008 and what happened – the market crashed.  I “lost” $50,000 on the condo I purchased in that all the others in the building were then priced that much lower 😦  Hmmm, maybe I don’t live that much of a charmed life on second thought 😉  I kept the long-term goals in sight and rented out the revenue property in highly sought after Yaletown.  My first tenants were fine.  Then that’s where it went to hell.  The next tenants went out to work and left the bathroom sink running which flooded my unit and leaked into the unit below costing me thousands.  Then the next tenants ended up housing up to 15 other students in a 725 square foot apartment unbeknownst to me.  Guess what that cost me in strata bylaw infractions!  If those tenants were not bad enough, I then ended up with the tenant from hell – well, actually his mother.  Since he was 21, she paid and caused me no end of grief – phoning me day and night, screaming at me, threatening to call lawyers, the police etc as he had lost his keys, lost his fob, window was broken, it was too busy in the city etc etc.  Oh man!  I should rethink if I live a charmed life.  Unfortunately for me, I manifest stress in the worst way possible – alopecia areata – yup, chunks of my hair on my head or in my eyebrows, or facial hair fall out.  That year, I had horrible hair!!  Having to evict and subsequently go to residential tenancy arbitration, I finally ended up with decent tenants.  The first couple stayed for two years and were amazing.  The current couple is at the end of their two years – fingers crossed that they stay.  I didn’t realize the value of good tenants until I had the nightmare of years previous.  With these current tenants, the fridge had to be fixed or a slight problem with the laundry machine but that is so minor in contrast to what I had to go through. I’m also feeling assured that they are taking care of my place.  I didn’t ever want to be a landlord but here I am trying to create an inheritance for my own kids and I’m learning a great deal.  I have to thank both the good tenants and backhandedly the bad ones because the learning curve of being a landlord was steep but I have begun to figure it out.  Am I ready to invest in another property – hell no but I have the life lessons I have taken away are amazing and would definitely help me if I were to contemplate a similar situation in the future.

July 6 – oldest niece

347/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve been told that I am quite naïve at times and take things very literally at other times missing the subtle sarcasm or subtext.  I’d like to think I’m just very straight forward and expect things to be relayed to me that way as well 😉  I have also been told that I am quite into my looks.  Okay, well, I won’t argue that but if you know my history – and if you have been reading these posts – well, then that personality trait is understandable.  I thought I was one of a kind until my niece Sabrina came along.  I didn’t see the similarities in personality until her own mother, my sister Pam, pointed them out.  From then on, almost everyone commented on how we were similar.  I didn’t take offense to it and I’m hoping Sabrina never did as it has been a running theme/joke whenever the family had gotten together for family gatherings.  Sabrina was born about a year before my daughter so I got a quick education on what parenting as an adult would look like.  In fact, Sabrina did everything a year before my daughter – entered kindergarten, high school, university etc and thus, I also received a cursory overview of what could possibly in store for my daughter and thereby myself.  I enjoyed our easy rapport and definitely our similarities and our uncle/niece bond but alas, as things have happened in my family, Pam and I have become estranged and sadly but understandably Sabrina decided to also cut ties with me in solidarity with her mother.  I hope that someday soon Sabrina remembers the happy times that we all shared as family but especially myself and her and perhaps will decide to rebuild our relationship as individuals rather brother/daughter of a family member but until that time, I wish her well and will always remember the learning that took place for me as I saw her growing up.

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!