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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November 9 – all sorts of students in my classes

108/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. As always in these gratitude posts, I’m being straight forward and honest and this one is tough for the teacher in me to admit. I pride myself in being open minded and open to new experiences but I have always been nervous and wary of students who are not of the “norm” educationally: Students who have Individualized Education Plans. Students who are from Alternate Programs. Students with Differing Abilities – whether physical, emotional or learning related. Students with Adaptations and Modifications to their Educational Programs. For most of my career, I have taught in the elective areas where the majority of students were regular academic achievers; however, with cutbacks and increased classroom sizes and all sorts of changes to the educational realm that I was used to, things are much different in my classroom today. Students of all sorts of abilities are now in all classes and I wasn’t sure how I would meet their needs while still providing the learning that I wanted to give the rest of the class. I anticipated all sorts of problems and made first impression judgement calls but was cognizant of this and immediately caught myself. I became aware that I had to change my mindset around learning, students and the classroom and adapt to the varied learning styles of the various learners which included the aforementioned learners. I am very thankful that this happened in my teaching career and that I have such diversity in my classes as I have learned a great deal about myself due to my interaction with students of differing abilities (not just the mainstream kids) and I feel privileged to work with and make a difference for all the students I come in contact with. Thank you to all my students (regardless of abilities) for keeping me on top of my toes when it comes to teaching and not become complacent – the learning goes both ways. In your honour, I revise my lessons to better fit your needs.

October 30 – a different breed

98/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Today, as I’m dressed as (Derek) Zoolander in my classroom for Hallowe’en and being the center of attention, I think back to those days when I wanted no attention at all. Days when I just wanted to blend in and not be called out for looking or being any different than the rest. Today I embrace my differences and my quirkiness – being me. Yesteryear, I longed to just be you. This gratitude post goes out to today’s students because of their accepting nature in contrast to what I experienced. Yes, I am an adult and I may be seeing them from a different perspective but as a teacher, I see a lot that most adults don’t have the opportunity to do so. I am learning so much from them and what I see is a different breed of student than when I went to school. I see a lot more acceptance in regards to diversity.   Back in my day, the transgendered student would be ridiculed if they had had the courage to come out but in my class, the trans student is equally accepted and is involved in group work and open about his feelings and has many friends. The out gay students are much more accepted and are proud to be themselves.  Racial tensions – at the school I’m at, we have Filipinos, Indo-Canadians, Black, Asians and White kids. Everyone getting along with everyone. Gender – girls outnumber guys 3 to 1 in Grade 12 and are at the top when it comes to marks. Maybe it’s through rose coloured bifocals 😉 , granted, but you can not deny the difference and awareness in today’s student . My day it was tolerance (hated that word) but today it’s acceptance that is not forced. Thank you students of today for allowing me to see school in such a positive light. I prepare another interesting lesson in your honour!

September 8 – the student i didn’t think i had an impact on

46/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. So here we are at the beginning of another new school year of teaching. Why do I do this? Not for the money (I’m not complaining, I get by) and not for the friendships (that is a bonus of the job). It’s all about the connections I have made and continue to make with students – knowingly and more important, unknowingly! Jordan was in my Psychology 12 class last year and to say he was a character – well, yes, that he was 😉 Jordan, like myself, liked to question things and had a natural ability to understand the subject matter. Yes, at times, Jordan and I would butt heads but always in a respectful way. I had several conversations with Jordan on his own on various subjects and found that during those one-on-ones, I got to see the real side of him – not the tough façade that he used to protect the true Jordan. Although I finished teaching him in January, I was very surprised to get a lengthy instant message from him at the end of June. I was sitting in a pub with a few friends and as I finished reading it, I got emotional (okay, a bit teary eyed) because the words in that text moved me as I had not thought that I, as teacher, had resonated with Jordan. He told me that his overall percentage was not indicative of what he learned from me. He told me that he had a hard time to say two words and mean them but he did with me – “thank you”. He told me how he learned not only academic knowledge but more importantly practical knowledge in relation to life. He told me how he changed for the better after taking my class. He told me that he could and would rub teachers the wrong way. He told me that I could see beyond the tough persona and into who he really was. After reading that text, I knew that the school that I am at presently is exactly where I am supposed to be because of the students. I thank you Jordan for your gratitude text but for more importantly giving me my passion back for not only teaching but for McNair and also for letting me realize that I, as a teacher, do connect with many students but with many more that I don’t even realize. Cheers to you!

September 2 – friends for life

40/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I am amazed by people who are very even-keeled in their emotions. I, on the other hand, can get excited in an instant. I can get caught up in an instant too. I can get emotional just as easily. My friend Lisa has to be the most emotionally stable person of all my friends. I envy her smooth sailing attitude in the face of anything that comes her way. She has been my friend for over two decades – from being the fitness instructor at the gym I went to and then to teacher co-worker at my first school in Richmond. Every interaction that I have had with Lisa has been so very positive – she is a light in the fog of life. She has never ever uttered a disparaging remark about a person. She is caring and gentle in her manner with people. She makes one feel that they are the center of attention and that they really matter. She listens to and remembers details – in fact, I went through a phase wanting to have a more solid sounding first name and dropped the “Y” for a few months and Lisa has been the only one since that day that still calls me Rand!  Lisa, I appreciate your compassionate nature, your happy-go-lucky vibe and just your general positivity and tranquility that you bring to my life! Thank you for being my friend!

August 31 – adhd is my gift

38/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. As a teacher, I have found that the best connections I make with students is when I’m real and honest. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t let students into my world, especially the part that would permeate into the classroom – my adhd and my occasional stuttering. I would often hear students giggling when I would get stuck on a word and not be able to get it out or keep repeating it. As well, many times a student would tell me something and because of my deficit, I would not register it leading to small problems or I would just walk out of the classroom into the hall and students would be left wondering what happened or something would catch my attention and my whole focus would shift. One year, I finally decided to mention it to my classes at the start of a school year – basically taking ownership of who I am as a person. I was very nervous as being judged is all I was accustomed to growing up. I told the students about what I live with and how it affects me and how it will affect the classroom. I told them all about my elementary school years with adhd, about public speaking and stuttering, about going to a speech pathologist and learning techniques, about living with my adhd without drugs, about how I found the condition was an ability rather than a disability, about how labels are for jars not people etc etc. At the end, I just felt very vulnerable as I had never been that raw in front of a person let alone a group. At the end of the class, Cole, a student in my class came up to me privately. He told me how inspiring my opening speech was and that he, too, had to deal with the label of adhd but didn’t want anyone (at the time) to know as he too thought it was a disability but to hear that a person could learn to live with it and go on to university and become a teacher made him realize that he, too, could be a success. He then thanked me and shook my hand. I was so very impressed with Cole in coming up to me and not only validating me but to be open himself and this was our first interaction! I got to know Cole in class seeing what a kind, hardworking and wonderful young man he was and knowing that I was making a difference for him but him not realizing what a difference he made for me. I don’t know where you are these days Cole but I hope you are doing very well. I honour you for giving me the best gift as a teacher which was that confirmation to open up to the students and be real with them. I continue to do so to this very day and I have you Cole to thank for giving me the confidence and courage!

August 29 – to test or not to test

36/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. People come in to your lives and they have an effect on you in some way in some aspect of your life. Glenn was such a person who affected the way I thought about teaching. Yes, he saw potential in me and took me on a few leadership conferences (because I was sponsoring Students Council) enabling me to pick up skills and activities to bring back to the select few I was working with; however, it was when we had an informal discussion about the strategies that I used in class that really got me thinking about my teaching practice as a whole. At that time in teaching in the 90s, the administration team was tasked with reviewing teachers in their classroom every five years. Glenn, as vice principal, watched me teach – and I must admit, it was a very nerve wracking experience. I selected classes where the students were engaged in different activities: taking notes, working in groups, writing a test. The review was very successful – great report written up about my teaching but the best part of the review was the conversation that Glenn and I engaged in afterwards. In regards to testing, he asked me why I administered tests and I thought wow, he’s losing it – it’s a school, we’re in a classroom, you test for knowledge  I told him that you just do to tie up a unit and to assess student learning and he asked why that way – forcing students to memorize. He asked me what the purpose of note-taking was and that was an easy answer – learning new material. Then he asked me the most profound question that forever changed my teaching – why can’t they use their notes for a test? I sat there dumbfounded as my answer was going to be the obvious ones – it’s school, it’s a test, you just don’t use notes, closed book is what tests are all about, that’s the way its always been done, everyone will get As etc etc. He didn’t ask me to change my teaching practice, he just left me with that to ponder and ponder it I did and since that day, I have been giving open book time for test taking and it has cut cheating down to zero, reduced much test taking anxiety for students and the marks (for the most part) reflect student knowledge. I, as well as hundreds of students, thank you Glenn for guiding my teaching practice in a way that challenged the status quo. Cheers!

August 28 – what was your name?

35/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. While my fellow Commerce students all took business related electives such as the History of Taxation, I started to enrol in all the “ologies” in the hopes of getting a Psychology minor. Since my Commerce courses were in the Angus building and I was a keener and didn’t want to be late, I ran on that second semester first day to my Anthropology class in the Buchanan building. Of course, I got to an empty classroom with plenty of time to spare. I sat down and got myself set up. The next person to arrive was a funky alterna-vibe girl who looked over at me and smiled and had a seat next to me. In my mind, I was thinking about the other Commerce students who I could possibly sit with that must still be coming to the class – alas, I could always sit with them tomorrow. She introduced herself but, thinking that I wouldn’t really see her after today, I didn’t register her name and we continued on with simple pleasantries. The class soon filled up and not a single person from Commerce was in there – everyone a stranger. The next day, I walked to class and upon entering, funky alterna-vibe girl beckoned me over. I sat with her and continued to do so over the next few weeks not ever knowing her name and she always calling me by name. Unlike high school, in this class there was no roll call, no papers submitted with your names on top, no group work where you introduced yourselves – and here I was over a month into the class and we were becoming friends and I still had no clue what her name was. Short of going through her personal belongings, I didn’t know how to figure out her name and shared my frustrations with my sister who was also at UBC. Unbeknownst to me, my sister was appalled at my initial cavalier attitude and casually asked me when and where my class was and I told her. A couple of days later, my sister was outside of my classroom and soon saw me and my classmate walk out. She came up to us and said hello to me and then asked me who my friend was! I was stunned. I had nothing to say. The girl looked at me. My sister looked at me. Not a single word came forth from my lips. The girl soon put all the pieces together and realized I had no clue what her name was and then asked me what her name was. Nothing. She, understandably so, got upset and walked away. My sister walked away too. I stood there dumbfounded and thought about all the shoulda, woulda, couldas but nothing could change it. The next day, I happened to be in class before the girl and upon entering she saw me and took a seat elsewhere. For the duration of the course, she never ever sat with me again. I did not know how to apologize for such a transgression and the course finished without us ever having reconciled and seeing each other again. Even to this day, I do not know her name but she taught me so much about the importance of recognizing and acknowledging a person immediately since one doesn’t know who will be important/significant in life. Since that experience, I make a conscious effort to learn a person’s name and repeat, clarify it, double-check it and use it back in conversation. Yes, I cannot correct the wrong that I did to you funky alterna-vibe girl, but you have forever changed me to realize that every person you meet matters and not to write them off as I did with you. Apologies and thanks go to you!