Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mentoring

A colleague, Scott Thompson, and I are trying to rewrite an article we had written that included the idea of online mentorship. The project that we based the article on is really Scott's but I came along for the ride because of my interest in mentoring and Scott's good will towards me. Our first attempt at having the article published wasn't successful (what else is new?) so we are trying to reshape the article for another journal - a Business Education journal focussing on the online mentorship aspects.

Working on the article today got me thinking about the role of mentors in my academic, professional and personal life. Looking back I can see areas where I could have used better mentoring. But looking back also had me thinking about the wonderful mentors I did have. In no particular order:

Art McBeath - now deceased - here was a man that made everyone around him (well those that he chose to pay attention to) feel that they were brilliant. I would say one little thing and he would take off on the idea to places I could never have imagined - and always attribute it back to me. He was brilliant in a very folksy, home-spun way. Yet he knew what was important and why it was important.

Orrison Burgess - now deceased - the exact opposite of Art. If Art was laid back and folksy, Orrison was attentive, organized, in some ways rigid - but he was the epitome of integrity and hard work. If he said something would be done by a certain time, it was done, done well and done on time. My approach was more like Art's but I envied and appreciated Orrison's way. Although they didn't see eye to eye often they both seemed to agree that I was worthy of their time and energy.

LeOra Cordis - smiley - now deceased - She opened the world to me - took me to Africa - told me about walking off the farm with a child in her arms and recreating her life. Nothing was beyond her. Determination, concern, focus were things she demonstrated on a daily basis.

There were others - mostly still living - George Richert - big picture thinking, Hellmut Lang -the value of hard work - Errol Young - overcoming unbelievable adversity with a smile and always learning.

And there are others still - mostly my contemporaries - who demonstrate to me personal characteristics that I admire and learn from every day.

But how did these people - especially the early ones - mentor me.

They showed me and reinforced my thinking concerning the purposes and responsibilities of members of a Faculty of Education. The children in our public pre-K to 12 schools are our real 'clients' If what we do doesn't make a difference in the lives of children and other learners then what we do isn't as meaningful as it could be. If we aren't inclusive in the work we do, if we don't consider the thoughts and the needs and the wishes of those around us and those who are involved in the same endeavour then we are missing the point. If we become self-contained and only consider our own needs as defined by the academy then we will lose sight of the possibilities our contributions to society.

Everyone has mentor stories - the ones we had and the ones we could have used. If anyone is reading this I would be interested in hearing/reading your stories

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