Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stuff I Wish I Had Written: Mentors Edition

John Spencer writes,
When I first began, I didn't really have a mentor in the teaching field. Don't get me wrong, I wanted a Terri Gross or maybe a Charlie Rose. The school assigned me a hard-working woman who excelled in teaching, but didn't really have time to talk. I'd say something and she would cut me off and talk. Her advice was great, but it wasn't a conversation.  If I wanted a Charlie Rose, she was the equivalent of a Chris Matthews. Over the course of the year, I found different teachers to fulfill the role of mentor. Oddly enough, they fit into the talk show host prototypes fairly well:
  • Larry King: Every teacher needs a teacher who will listen and toss out soft ball questions.  They need someone who will welcome them back after a controversy, a scandal or a mistake in judgment.  
  • Bill O'Reilley: Every teacher needs a teacher who is combative, cantankerous and realistic; a  "straight talker" who brings up points that one might disagree with.  Perhaps Bill O'Reilley is the wrong guy.  He's a little too disrespectful.  But a new teacher needs someone who will challenge his or her thinking. 
  • Jon Stewart: I realize that he's not a pundit, but rather a master of satire. Yet, that's why he's such an effective pundit. I'm convinced that every new teacher needs a humorous person to point out the insanity of the standardized system and to offer a perspective that can feel crazy in a system of insanity.
In a fit of idealism, I'll note that both education and TV news has lost the Walter Cronkite "type."  There seem to be few people who have earned the trust or possess the gravitas that Cronkite had.

I'm not sure that I can name a person who currently does a news or talk show who fits this "type," but I think that successful people in any enterprise need a raconteur both to assist the Jon Stewart type and provide a bit of institutional history.

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