Saturday, September 6, 2014

Thank You, Harry, Tim & Gretchen!

Over the course of my teaching career, I have had the privilege to work with and learn from countless brilliant educators.  Some were colleagues, some were administrators and some were para-professionals.  Three of these people stand out as mentors - individuals who supported my efforts, challenged me to improve and recognized my success.  Each of them were a source of guidance, support and accountability.  I could write all day about the gifts they shared, but the "job" of a mentor, as I see it, has three basic components.

Lead by example.  My first teaching job was in West Philadelphia.  You can imagine the challenges, so I won't bother to list them.  Harry, the assistant principal, never once lost his cool.  He treated everyone, without exception, with dignity and respect.  I admired him and worked hard to emulate his attributes.

One day he walked into my class and commented, "I love coming in here.  You never lose your cool, Ms. Ironside."   Thank you for setting the example, Harry.

Challenge you to find your own solution.  My current boss, Tim, is a brilliant educator. (I feel OK saying this, because I am pretty sure he doesn't read my blog.)  He is savvy and forward thinking.  He has high expectations for teachers and students alike.

I used to always go to Tim for answers.  Sometimes, I would get some, but often he would press me.  "What do you think?"  "How could you solve that?"  It took me a little while to figure out that this wasn't evasion.  The thing about Tim is, he expects that I will find a solution and that enables me to do so.  Grappling with a problem while knowing that someone expects you to find a resolution is hard, but really empowering.  Thank you for challenging me, Tim.

Celebrate your successes.  Not all of the work of mentoring is serious and hard.  I learned this from our former Director of Admissions, Gretchen.  She was insightful and driven, and insisted that all the teachers and students work hard.  But she also continually reminded us of our successes.  To students, she would say, "Remember when you couldn't multiply and now you can?"  I relied heavily on her for advice, but what blossomed was collaboration and friendship.  We spent lots of time brainstorming about how to be more effective, but each conversation ended with an affirmation of my latest success, which she had always noticed, even when I had not.  Thank you, Gretchen.


Today's post is dedicated to the memory of a brilliant educator, wise mentor and my very dear friend, Gretchen.  This picture was taken at graduation - at which she was frequently called upon by students to read their diplomas.  She knew how to celebrate success!



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