Be Brave, education, Humour, Memoir, Mentoring, Raves, Teacher

Mentor Me


pooh11
“When did WE become the old ones?” my friend and fellow teacher asked me the other day.

It was a conversation we have had a few times.

We know that ‘technically’ we aren’t exactly old, but professionally we are now the ones with experience on our side. More and more we are finding that younger, less experienced staff are coming to us for advice. We are now expected to mentor, rather than be mentored.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mentors and their importance lately.

My mentor, Mary Murray, died last week. Mary was larger than life and like most people who are larger than life, we all thought she would live forever. She was 78 and she crammed more living into her one lifetime than most people could do in a dozen.

As I read her obituary it occurred to me that she was MY age now when I first met her almost 30 years ago.

I met Mary when I was 18 years old. She hired me to work as a pseudo camp counsellor at an intensive English language immersion program (ELP) for the summer. I had no idea what I was getting myself in for and it seemed, neither did she.

I was, to say the least, not a model employee.

I had no idea what I was doing. I had never even been to camp, much less worked at one. I didn’t understand the 24-hours a day-7 days a week-6 weeks in a row, on-duty all the time culture. I had never lived away from home before and my only other job had been working as a cashier at the mall.

Those first few weeks were miserable.

I missed my family, my friends, my bed, and my dog. I had never shared a room with anyone and suddenly I was in a tiny dorm room with a girl who seemed to know exactly what to do and when to do it.

I remember the first (of many) sing-songs I attended. Singing was like breathing at ELP – it was done regularly and with vigor. I was handed a tambourine and a songbook and told to sing along in front of 300 or so English second language students from around the world.

I looked at that tambourine and I looked at the staff who were singing along like we were at some bizarre version of Woodstock and I thought, “Oh.my.god.This place is frickin’ nuts.”

Why I wasn’t fired in week one is still a mystery to me.

But I wasn’t. And I didn’t quit either. I stuck it out and slowly I started to understand how this strange new world operated. My roommate, Colleen, took me under her wing and helped me to see the fun side of the job.

And Mary stood by me. She advised me, counselled me, and cheered me on. She gently scolded me when I needed it and I needed it often. Not that she really had to scold me. Just catching a raise of her eyebrow was enough to make me want to do better, to be better.

I survived that first summer (barely) and came out of it with my eyes, my mind and my heart opened wider than they had ever been before. (I was also 20 lbs. heavier, but that’s a different story. Turns out I wasn’t “naturally” skinny after all and that cafeteria food was not my friend.)

The next summer I vowed that I wasn’t going back. I moved out west and lived with my parents, but I quickly realized I wanted to go back. I couldn’t have explained why. I just knew I missed it.

After the first month, I called Mary and asked if she thought there were any jobs she thought I could do.

No hesitation. No warnings that things had to be better this time around.

She just said enthusiastically (as she said everything), “Of course! I’d love to have you back!”

She gave me a job in the office where I discovered that I loved managing the paperwork and organizing events. I didn’t know that this would be my strength, but Mary did. She knew that I would be good at it if she gave me the chance. Once again, she helped me, guided me, and nudged me along.

A few years later, after I graduated with my Arts degree, I got married and moved away. I thought I had left that part of my life behind. But life is life and eventually I was back and looking for a job. Once again, Mary said, “Wonderful! I know what you can do” and she offered me a job teaching grammar.

Grammar. Really? But Mary knew me and she trusted that I could do it. And she was right. It was perfect for me. It wasn’t a difficult class to teach (very structured and organized…just the way I like things) and it gave me as chance to see if I actually enjoyed teaching.

And I did. After teaching ESL, I decided to go back to university and get my Education degree. And the rest, as they say, is history.

But Mary was never history for me.

Even though I rarely saw her again after those summers, I never forgot her. Her words and lessons echoed in my ears as I moved throughout my teaching career.

I sent her a Christmas card every year and always tried to include a little note about something I did in my teaching or with my children that year that I could credit back to her.

Mary was a natural mentor. At her funeral and the reception that followed, I met person after person who talked about how Mary had guided them, helped them, mentored them.  She never wanted to create Mini-Marys. Instead, she wanted all of us to be the best we could be. She helped us to find our gifts. She saw our strengths and nurtured them until we were ready to fly on our own.

I know I’ll never be a mentor like Mary, but that’s OK. She wouldn’t want me to be. I know she would want me to be the best ME I can be and to help guide and mentor the next generation of teachers and leaders to be the best they can be.

I’ll do my best, Mary.

mentor blog meme

 

“Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.” Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring

 

 

 

 

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Pop Culture, Rants

Use your words, ladies. Why we need to stop worrying about being embarrassed.

writing113Today is the day San Diego Mayor Bob Filner starts his two weeks of intensive therapy to help cure what he called the “monster…inside me.”

A few weeks ago, the man known as Headlock Bob found himself in hot water over his alleged instances of “unwanted sexual touching”. It seems Big Bad Bob likes dragging women around the office in a ‘friendly’ headlock while asks them for a little love. He has also been known to ask the women in his office to come to work without their panties. To be fair, perhaps he feels this will help them type faster or something…sort of like swimmers who shave off all their body hair in order to shave off a few seconds of time.  (Honestly, if I had a nickel for every time my panties have slowed me down at work, well, I’d be sitting on a beach in…uh…nowhere because I’d have NO FREAKIN’ NICKELS!)

Mayor Herbie Headlock has a long history of serving the people of San Diego, including 20 years in Congress and six years with the city council. He is well-known as being a serial sexual harasser.

Now, to be fair, he has admitted to doing the things he is charged with but he says it’s not his fault. At 70 (!) years of age, he says he didn’t know any better. He blames the City of San Diego because they did not pay for him to attend sexual harassment training seminars.

(No, seriously. I could not make this stuff up.)

In fact, his lawyer is arguing that because his employer didn’t send him for this training, they should pay his legal fees as fights the charges these (now) 10 women have brought against him.

First of all, let me be the first to say…two weeks, Mr. Mayor? Seriously? It’s only going to take two weeks (!!!) for some therapist to beat the douche-baggyness out of you? And then you get to go back to work as the Mayor of the great city of San Diego? Where is this therapy taking place? Hogwarts?

While this story made me laugh in a head-shaking, tongue-clucking sort of way, it also made me wonder how a story like this could even occur in this day and age.

The women who have filed suit against Headlock Bob sound like strong, relatively powerful women. One is a communications consultant, another a dean at the University of San Diego, while still another is a retired Navy rear admiral who also served as San Diego’s former chief operating officer.

They all say he made them uncomfortable, embarrassed and/or scared.

And yet it took some of them YEARS to file a complaint.

So why didn’t they report him? Why weren’t charges filed years earlier?

I have no idea. I would guess they feared some sort of retribution from a very powerful, well-connected man. B ut I would also guess there was another factor at play.

We are all deathly afraid. Women especially.

And do you know what we are afraid of?

Being embarrassed.

We don’t want to make a scene.

So we laugh nervously and get the hell out of the situation and hope that we never have to go through anything like that again.

And yet, sometimes, we end up going through it over and over again.

So, here’s what I suggest.

First of all, check out your surroundings. Are you safe? Are there people around? Exits you can use? Yes?

Now use your words. Sometimes it works best to speak softly. I love whispering. I find it often works like a charm. But if that doesn’t work or you just don’t feel like it, speak up. Loudly, if necessary.

It’s OK to say, “Take your hand off my leg. Now.”

It’s OK to say, “No, you may not kiss me. Ever”

It’s OK to say, “If you ever put me in headlock again, I will knee you in the gonads and then march to HR and file a complaint.”

Don’t worry. You can’t die of embarrassment. Trust me. I would be dead a million times over if that were the case. I can barely make it to the bathroom in the morning without embarrassing myself and I’m still here.

So what if people stare? So what if he gets mad and says, “I was just joking” and gets huffy?

Again, I’m not talking about situations where you are in danger. That’s a different story for a different time. I’m talking about situations like the ones these women were in.

In most cases, they were in public places, where other people were present, where they were physically safe.

One of my biggest goals as a teacher is to teach young people (girls AND boys) that it’s OK to speak up for yourself.

Over the years, I have seen girls as young as 8 who can’t end a sentence without lilting their voice at the end so every sentence ends up sounding like a question.

“I like…cats..?”

The sentence becomes a question as she looks around the room to see if everyone (especially the class bully) likes cats and if it’s OK to like cats and if she really should say she likes cats or just wait in case anyone says they like dogs more.

I always tell my students, “Tell me what you think and say it like you mean it.”

“I LIKE cats!”

So, ladies?

Say it like you mean it.

Perhaps that will keep future mayors and others from thinking it’s OK to put women in headlocks and pat their butts and basically degrade and dehumanize them because they know think they can get away with it.

Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban

Smart, funny women who will make you pee your pants…just a little.

I love smart, funny women. I love them in books, on TV, and in real life…especially real life. I am lucky beyond belief that I am surrounded by these women every day. At night, when they all go home to their own beds, I like to read about smart, funny women. It makes my husband’s snoring easier to deal with.
These are 5 books by smart, funny women that I guarantee will make you snort with laughter. And, if you are of a certain age (like me), you may just pee a little bit.

writing111. Bossypants Tiny Fey

I want to BE Tina Fey when I grow up, so it makes sense that I would love her book. She is smart, talented, funny and sexy in that “I’m sexy because I’m smart” kind of way. Her book literally made me laugh outloud  or LOL, as the kids say. (Note: My son just advised me that the kids don’t say LOL anymore. Damn it! I am sooo behind the times.)

Best part: I think of this whenever someone says to me, “Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny,” or “Christopher Hitchens says women aren’t funny,” or “Rick Fenderman says women aren’t funny…Do you have anything to say about that?” Yes. We don’t fucking care if you like it.

You tell ’em, Tina.

writing122. Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? Mindy Kaling

I just finished reading this book, much to the relief of my poor long-suffering husband, who was awakened numerous times by my hysterical snorts of laughter just as he was drifting off to sleep. I put up the back cover of her book instead of the front for a reason: it is adorable. She is so non-Hollywood. It’s part of her charm that comes through in her writing. Like Tina Fey, she seems ridiculously well-adjusted for a successful television writer, actor and producer.

Best part: Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that when you graduate but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life.”

Seriously: this girl should be giving commencement speeches at high schools across North America.

 writing93.  I know I am, but what are you? Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee is a correspondent and writer for one of my fantasy boyfriends, Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show. Not only is she clever and sharp and funny, she is also Canadian! Which means she makes references to Timbits and Ontario throughout her book (and doesn’t even explain them)!

One really good part: “I have old lady hands; I’ve always had them. If you look at pictures of me as an infant, you’d think that the hands of tiny eighty-year-old hooker had been Photoshopped onto my otherwise smooth, alabaster baby body.”

writing104.  Are You There, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea. Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler is not someone I would pick as a best friend. To be honest, she’s kind of scary. Her humour is sharp and dark and I am pretty sure she would make fun of me at a party and then go home with my boyfriend. That doesn’t mean she isn’t laugh-out-loud funny.

One of my favorite parts where she talks about dating a guy with red hair for the first time: I’m not a finicky person when it comes to pubic hair maintenance and I certainly don’t expect men to shave it all off, leaving themselves looking like a hairless cat. That’s even creepier than seeing what Austin had, which could really only be compared to one thing: a clown in a leg lock.

OMG Chelsea – you are B-A-D.

writing135. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson might just be one of the funniest writers ever. Her childhood recollections are nothing short of bizarre. The part where her father pretends to have found a talking squirrel, only for her to discover that he’s actually using road kill as a hand-puppet? Priceless.

Typical piece from Jenny’s book (I call her Jenny because I am hoping someday we’ll be BFFs and hang out together and stuff): “When I was in junior high I read a lot of Danielle Steele. So I always assumed that the day I got engaged I’d be naked, covered in rose petals, and sleeping with the brother of the man who’d kidnapped me. And also he’d be a duke. And possibly my stepbrother.”

She did a thing on that scary Elf on a Shelf dude that had me laughing long after I went to bed and turned out the lights…much to hubby’s dismay once again…seriously, his life is hell. Oh well. Here’s a link to Jenny’s blog so you too can keep your husband up at night: http://thebloggess.com/

****Bonus funny part from Bossypants. Tiny Fey does a fake take on “Growing Up and Liking It” – a handout that was included in maxi-pads for girls starting their period.

Dear Ginny,

I finally got my “friend” today!! Yay!! It’s about time! If I roller-skate while I’m MEN-STRU-HATING, will I die?

Dear Pam,

Of course you can roller-skate. Don’t be silly! But be careful of odor, or neighborhood dogs might try to bite your vagina. Friends Forever, Ginny.

*** I read this aloud to my husband, while tears streamed down my cheeks, barely getting the words out I was laughing so hard. He responded by saying, “I didn’t need to hear that.”

And THAT, my friends, is why I need smart, funny WOMEN in my life.