Friday, November 21, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude #19: Grateful for Mentors

Today's post responds to the Attitude of Gratitude Challenge prompt: "Tell someone you know how grateful you are for the work they do. Share your story here."
Last night, our college premiered our first monologue program featuring students reading their stories (think This American Life or Story Corps on NPR). Students performed at a local library, packed with students, family, friends, professors, and counselors from school. 

I played a role in the program, and I felt particular pride seeing students from our school shine. I also enjoyed working with a great bunch of faculty who served as writing coaches. [Side note: The program was sponsored by So Say We All, a San Diego creative arts non-profit agency devoted to helping people craft and tell their stories. Amazing stuff.

In the audience, I saw two former colleagues from the college where I used to work. They were the prime movers on their campus, the ones who promoted and organized the storytelling project. I participated, in a small way, and enjoyed the process immensely. I saw how the project invigorated my classroom and helped develop writers and their voices. 

So when a professor from the school where I currently work decided to organize our own storytelling project, I happily joined in, assisting as I could. Folks at my new college basically lifted what my old colleagues did. 

When I saw my former colleagues at the show, I had to thank them for what they pioneered at their campus and for letting us "stand on their shoulders." These mentors served as inspiration, and they supported our school by attending and bringing their friends. AND they offered to meet with our new team at some later point to share ideas on how to improve our now shared project, perhaps to collaborate between colleges. 

I gushed my thanks yous for their inspiration, thrilled to show them, via the student monologues, just how influential their modeling has been. It's cliche, for sure, but words could not express my gratitude. I didn't really thank them as much as I wiggled and squirmed like a happy, happy dog greeting the owner he hadn't seen all day - but without the dog-slobber. I suspect my gratitude was evident. 

It's sobering and inspiring to find myself practicing behaviors I envy and admire in others. It would be presumptuous to say I am at my role models' level, yet it's fair to say I am approaching the standards they've set. My mentors did not simply serve as mentors. Along with another peer, they urged me to apply for the San Diego Area Writing Project's Invitational Summer institute, which I subsequently attended. Cue tail-wagging, body-quaking Scooby Doo squirming. 

From blogging to revising rubrics, from assigning challenging homework problems to running successful one-on-one students conferences, how I teach has substantially changed for the better - because of my association with these amazing professionals. 

I'm sad I don't see these old colleagues as often as I used to when I worked with them (Facebook helps!). I'm glad their habits of mind and heart manifest in my work. I want them to know their effect continues to be felt. And I look forward to working with them on future storytelling events that link our two schools. 
Storytelling showcase from my old school, San Diego City College