Thursday, November 26, 2009

American Thanksgiving

To all our neighbours to the south, I hope you enjoy a beautiful Thanksgiving Day with your family and friends. Most people do not know that American Thanksgiving is the most travelled day of the year for Americans, and supercedes even Christmas.

I love the story of Thanksgiving in the States. I love how earnest the pilgrims were and how they had a horrendous year in the new world, but still took time out to give thanksgiving. I love how in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln officially declared it, and set the date for generations to come to celebrate this hallowed holiday.

But during Thanksgiving, the most important thing besides surrounding yourself with family and friends, is the actual act of Thanksgiving. What are you truly thankful for?

Well, I've had many reasons to be thankful this year, but during this note, I've decided to be thankful for my education and the teachers who contributed to it. The reason that I've decided to go this way, is that teachers never get the credit that they deserve. It really is a thankless job these days and they are always critized and often overlooked.

I went to school in the late 70's and all of the 80's. It was a different time back then. Most of the teachers in my era were educators and took their job seriously. They were organized, professional and understood how to work well with kids. You may not have always liked your teachers, but they weren't there to like, they were there to educate you. There were good ones, and bad ones. But then, there were the GREAT ones!! I bet everyone reading this can think about at least a couple of their favourite teachers.

The funny thing about teachers is that the great ones really made a difference in your life. -They inspired you. They made you a better person by believing in you when even you didn't believe in yourself. They made your confidence soar, and you wanted to excel to meet their approval.

So I want to thank 3 teachers of mine:

1) Henry Kazina

There probably isn't a man that I admire more. Henry was from the old school system, and was the VP of my school in Beausejour, Manitoba. We all looked at Henry as being mean and tough; but really, he was the man that you would trust your child's welfare and education to.
There were many times that I pushed the limit to test him and his authority. Time and time again he had the chance to really punish me, but unlike other teachers who would make you draw lines on the blackboard or wasteful activities, my detentions with Henry were alaways something to get me involved with school activities. He made me referree games, attend school government meetings, and walk patrols as detentions, and he always spoke to me with respect. He was firm but fair, and I learned many things from this man.
Today he is retired, and is a pillar in his community. He recently headed the fundraising campaign to bring an old arena back to life near his hometown for all the kids in future to play on. He is a man of the utmost character and I am a lucky man to have met him and learned from this man.
Thanks Henry for believing in that short curly headed kid, and never giving up on a student...

2)Jean Parkin

When I first moved from Manitoba and came to Ontario, she was the "really cool" teacher that every student hoped to get at the start of the year. It was like winning the kids lottery, and it meant that you were going to have a fun year. It's so much easier to do well in school if you are having fun, and Miss Parkin excelled in this. She encouraged everything I was passionate about, which at the time was music. When I had finished recording a song we wrote in the recording studio, she asked me for a copy and wrote me a letter afterwards about what a great job we did. She remembered my birthday without fail, and she was always available to talk to. This was my grade 7 English teacher, but I had the opportunity to see her again when she came to my high school during my final year. She was the same person that she was that I remembered as a kid. I used to go back to the school and visit her once a year until she retired a couple years ago.

3) Gord McLeod

He was my marketing teacher at Sheridan College. From the very first time I met him when he walked into the classroom, I was captured by his charisma and energy. He taught marketing in a way I never thought could be taught. He inspired me to think outside of the box, and didn't worry about marks. He always used to say, "Go down the hall and write your tests, and then come back and let's do some MARKETING!" He wrote me letters of recommendation when I needed them, and he gave me that push start that every kid out of college needs before they hit the workplace to get the shit kicked out of them. He was a friend, a mentor, and a fantastic teacher.

The thing is, each and every one of these people touched my life in a very profound way. Here I am, writing about them and remembering details about their contribution in my life decades later. They didn't receive extra pay, and make royalties on how successful you would become in life. They just did their job with pride, and to the best of their ability because they thought that's what their students deserved.

I always love to watch "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "The Emperor's Club" as reminders of how great these teachers were to me. They are frozen in time in my head, and will never age outside of my memory of them.

And today, I am thankful for them and all the many people who are like them out there. Thank you for taking my education seriously. Because you showed me value in it, I learned to appreciate it. Too many other countries do not have the blessing of our education system and we take it for granted. It may not be perfect, but I seem to think that I am a better person because of it.

So thank you...

And if there was a special teacher that reached out to you and realized that you were special and taught you something about yourself... or realized that your brain learned in a different way than others, and helped you; reach out to that teacher. I promise you, you will give back to them more than you would ever know.

Happy Thanksgiving all...

1 comment:

  1. Yet again you've given me a food for thought, made me think of something I haven't thought of in a long while, the people that were important to my education, to shaping of my thinking, to helping me become who I am today. Thank you for writing this one :) ......and yes, all the others as well ;)


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