Saturday, April 5, 2014

Celebrating the Quiet Mentors: Marcia

On Friday, I read Meeno Rami's book Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching and connected with her chapter on mentors. Rami uses the term quiet mentors and reminds us that mentors are all over. They are in many different parts of our lives--and we can have more than one. 

We can make that choice to surround ourselves with people who are good for us.

In the text, Rami suggests looking for those who are passionate about their work, enjoy their job, whose students trust them, whose students are engaged, who is most willing to share, who is doing something which interests you but you know nothing about, who has a quality you would like to develop in yourself...and so on.

And I thought, my gosh, I know those people. To honor them, I am going to blog for a week about all of the quiet mentors in my life.

Clockwise from top: Marcia, me, and 

photo-bombing friends Avery, & Stacy
Quiet Mentor #1: Marcia

Five years ago, our colleague, Marcia, used her club period to help a group of middle school students organize the Unionville Run for Our Sons 5K to benefit the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy in honor of Elliot and Henry Johnson.

The club has continued for five years and Marcia always credits the kids in that club.

The 5K is pretty much run by the Johnson family today, but those closest to Marcia know just how much work she has done (continues to do) and how much of the pressure she still absorbs. She loves the cause and she loves that kids brought her to the cause.

But it wasn't always smooth, and nobody handed Marcia anything to get it started. My first exposure to Run for Our Sons outside of school was at an away high school football game. Marcia met the kids from her club to our away game at West Chester Rustin. The kids were there collecting money for the cause and Marcia was there supporting them. She ended up sitting next to me in the coaches box throughout the game because her club was there to spread the word and solicit support. That was 5 years ago when the club was just starting.

With well over 600 runners participating each year, Run for Our Sons has raised over $160,000. This year's total raised is just under $43,000.

What makes this even more remarkable to me is that clubs in our building is a never-ending taffy pull with no good, final answer. Clubs has been a source of anxiety and frustration for all of us. Administrators, teachers leaders, and even the kids, have all weighed-in on what our club period should look like over the years...and we often end up in the same place.

We don't know what to sponsor that will engage the the same time, there is always a very clear, loud presence cautioning the staff that clubs can't become another prep period for us.

I have to tell you, no matter what you are doing with kids, you have to prepare. When you work with kids, there is no "time off."

I admire Marcia for working her tail off to make her club work.

Honestly, I have been the leader of some unsuccessful clubs and some mildly successful clubs. Often, the clubs that fail are those that do not engage the kids. The kids lose interest and focus and start asking for passes to visit teachers. Sometimes they take their time in getting to clubs. Sometimes they just go into the room they want to be in to just hang out with friends.

And teachers spend a lot of time tracking these kids down.

So, clubs can often devolve into hangouts or lounges which require minimal effort from the teacher. We become lion tamers. Just keep the kids at bay and safe--the day is almost over--get them on the bus. Enjoy the weekend.

My most recent club devolved from "Writing and Reading" into a lounge. Initially, kids interested in sharing their writing or sharing good books with one another signed up. But then, new kids (who didn't like their old club were allowed to leave and choose another) arrive. They aren't really interested in writing or reading, as it is the last half hour on a Friday. And so the whole climate of the group changes. And now we are a lounge.

Clubs change next Friday. We all have new ones--all teacher-generated.

I'm trying a SCUBA club. My close friends own a dive shop and certify new divers all the time. Brainstorming with Jeff, he agreed to Skype into my club to help the kids learn about diving and work through the three phases of earning their certification. The first step is taking the online test for which he is agreeing to help prepare them. He has also offered to setup the second and third phases--diver training in a pool and the certification test in a pool--if I end up with enough kids or families who want to see this process all the way through to the end.

Yet, I know the club could still be a flop.

All of which makes me appreciate what Marcia has been able to pull off for each of the last five years. Her clubs are now always Run for our Sons and the kids who get involved always do a great job.

We know this because we see it.

And because Marcia gives the kids all the credit.

You are a quiet mentor of mine, Marcia. Thank you.

Keep doing what you're doing.

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