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September 30, 2011

Becoming a Teacher

As you are walking through the Scarfe building you take a minute to look around and you begin to realize that everyone you see is an individual. No two are alike, we all come from different backgrounds and we all have different social personalities and have had different experiences that have led to that “ah-hah” moment when we decided to become teachers. As we have all had different experiences that have lead us to become teacher candidates, it is only natural that those different experiences affect our teaching perspectives.

Even though I am Canadian born and raised in the Lower Mainland, I have a variety of different social personalities from other Canadians born and raised in the Lower Mainland. Growing up in Maple Ridge as a middle class family with both of my parents and my younger brother I felt that I was privileged in all the things I had and all the activities in which I participated; and continuously receiving support in all we did.  Through this support we were taught to believe that individual has the right to their own beliefs on the intricacies of the world surrounding us.  Within our family structure everyone’s opinions and beliefs were always accepted and supported.

Growing up in my family I would say was just as typical as any other. My passion for reading developed at a young age. Both of my parents read to me continuously when I was not yet able to. Part of my difficulty in reading, did not stem from a lack of intelligence, but a lack of opportunities in the classroom. I was a French Immersion student and was not provided the opportunity to learn to read English until I reached grade 3. Either way whether I was reading myself or not, I owe my parents for my passion. I do not recall a single night when they did not read to me, and read themselves before slipping into bed. The first novel I recall my father reading to me was written by Mark Twain, it was Huckleberry Finn. To this day it remains one of my favorite reads, amongst many other classic novels. If it were not for my parents exposing me to reading at such a young age, I do not believe I would love to read as much. However, as I grew older and proceeded through high school, I put up a rebellion front. I did not enjoy having to read what I was told to read. If it were my choice, I would have had a choice between novels. It is my belief with providing an array of selection, relating in themes, that students will chose a piece of literature that is intriguing to them. And they will not feel as rebellious, and refuse to read everything.

It was not until my first year in high school, Grade 8, that there was a drastic change in our family structure. No longer was it a household with two working parents; Dad was officially diagnosed with 100% Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of serving with the US Army during the Vietnam War, going onto permanent disability from his career as an Financial Assistant Worker. This had both positive and negative consequences; however, the positive far outweighed the negative. I was able to spend more time with him; and I had the opportunity to have him supporting me at every single game of volleyball, at every game and tournament of rugby, and at every dance competition I had. Always having that extra moral support on the sidelines was extraordinary. Not everyone was as lucky as me to be shown that kind of support from their parents 100% of the time.

It was not until after my dad passed away five years later that I began to realize the importance of that support. That year I began coaching girls rugby at the high school I graduated from and had that “ah-hah” moment. I came to the realization that I was to work with adolescents, to provide that extra support to adolescents who are not as fortunate as I was to have someone always cheering for me on my side. I could provide that positive environment for them to learn in, to grow in, and to develop in. Sharing in their accomplishments was as equally as rewarding if not more so than experiencing my own accomplishments. To have such a positive influence on someone’s life and to take pride in their abilities is a great experience. It was the difference within my family structure from all those children I heard my parents talk about and the positive support I received, that made me want to provide those opportunities to others.

A Morning Adventure to NA

It’s early Sunday morning and the alarm is going off.  Too early, especially since I’m not heading off to work.  I roll out of bed at 6:30am, take a quick look out the window, almost looking to see if the sun was up yet.  Skies were blue with the sun shining.  It’s going to be a good day, in more ways than one.

Dressed and ready for the day ahead out to the car I go.  First stop, as any other morning, Starbucks.  Not too sure how long my upcoming event will take, I decide better safe than sorry, so, I decide to get a sausage breakfast sandwich to go along with my grande non-fat no-whip mocha.  Coffee in hand, I drive towards my destination for this morning’s early alarm.  Surrey, not in the nice part of Surrey either.  Off to an older run-down (currently – some neighbours seem to be taking care of their yards, others not) neighbourhood of Whalley.

Being early and nervous about my morning’s adventures, I drive around the house to scope out the area and assess the situation.  I find a large business parking lot to stop in and enjoy my coffee while I collect and process my thoughts.  

It’s or never.  If I don’t drive to the house now, I’ll miss it.  I won’t be able to support him.  Facing the uneasiness I had about this new environment, I got out of my car, walked around to the back of the house.  There it was, the converted garage, where I’ll visit my first N.A. meeting.  The yard is filled with faces I don’t know.  I walk past them towards the door of the garage.  There is a friendly warm welcoming smile that meets me.  A nice big hug from the man, the friend, I am there to support.  I’m at ease.  Next two other faces I know, relief sets in.  I know I’m doing the right thing by being here to support my friend, to help him celebrate his accomplishments in the past year.

The meeting is called to start and everyone files into the converted garage to find a seat.  I sit beside my friend, really – where else would I be?  It’s hard for him to settle.  I look around; it’s hard for everyone to settle.  Each addict is experiencing ticks, shaking, fidgeting in some way.  Some maybe because they’ve just used, ‘need’ to use.  Others because the thought of using is at the forefront of their mind.  Subconsciously I start to mimic them, I start to fidget with my coffee cup.

I sit and listen to the Twelve-Traditions and Twelve-Steps of Narcotics Anonymous.  Eyes straight ahead, trying my best not to look at those around me for fear of judging them.  But why should I judge them?  I don’t know their individual stories that lead them to use.  They must be good people, they’re here trying to get help.  Just like my friend.  With the formalities over, they invite those with milestones to come and collect their key-rings.  Then it’s time...he’s upset, anxious, that they went from 9 months to 18 months.  Have they forgotten about him and all his hard work?  They hadn’t.  They wanted to save the largest milestone for last.  12 months clean and sober!!  It’s his special day, and he got to choose the speakers and the topics of discussion for the day.  Gratitude, Power of Prayer, and Life on Life’s Terms.

Hearing these topics I being announced I started thinking about them as they applied to my life.  What I would talk about when it was my turn?  My friend had asked me before the meeting if I would be willing to talk to show my support for him.  Many thoughts and ideas raced through my mind.  Nothing coherent.  Thankfully then man running the meeting did not call on me to talk like he was supposed to.  Relief, served with a side of guilt.  I was thankful that I did not have to speak, I didn’t want it to appear as if the non-addict was preaching to everyone else.  Yet, there was a great deal of guilt that came with not fully supporting my friend like he wanted.

Once the chosen speakers had finished, it was time for the celebration.  My friend had two other members each speak to him and his recovery.  The first was there along side of him, throughout the whole 12 months, and many months before that using with him.  The first member that stood to speak after all was said and hugs were had, presented him with his One Year Sober Coin.  The second member that stood said some kind words about my friend’s recovery, and then presented him with the celebratory One Year Cake.  It was Black Forest Cake.  I was disappointed, since I don’t like this flavour. 

To wrap up the meeting everybody, addict, recovering addict, and supporters alike, formed a circle to say a prayer.  Now I do not necessarily believe in Him, but I do believe there are higher powers at work.  And it’s those higher powers that help give us the strength to carry on in our lives.

And to my dear friend I say…

Be grateful for the opportunities that you are given.  Although we often believe, things aren’t the best, we often forget that we are lucky enough to have great lives surrounded by people we love and care for.  And there are some that do not have love, the simplest gift we can be given.

You do not need to pray to Him, but look above to find the ones that have left us.  They are there to give us the strength and power that we need to succeed in our lives.

And to live life on life’s terms.  We do not have control of everything in our lives.  Take a confident step forward and realize that everything in front of us is there for us.  To embrace, to learn from, and to build on. 

Be confident in who you are, who you are becoming, and who you want to be.  It’s it only you that can make the steps necessary.

I love you as a brother, and have cherished all the time we have spent together.  You are a man with a great soul and heart.  I am proud of your successes in this last year.  Here’s to you!