Yesterday I spent the day at the beach – with my family.But it wasn’t just an ordinary day – eating ice cream and sun bathing, I needed to be there.
Last week I hit a wall – I stopped blogging daily and then wrote a less than interesting and informative piece after receiving sad news. My mentor and dissertation advisor, favorite graduate professor died after battling cancer for three years. Although I would LOVE to, I have not shared the name of my mentor here, her family has asked that the news of her passing not be shared on public media. What a sensible and normal idea .
My mentor was my role model, heroine, advocate and conscience for the past seven years. We planned to write a book together, to collaborate on projects – she was going to mentor me through the process of being a consultant. I was in one of the first classes she taught in our program and as it happens one of the last students she accepted as a mentee to work on research. She was an amazing woman, smart, intelligent, fun and really challenging for me. She spent most of her career as a writing specialist and instructor, and so would not accept anything less than perfection. I am not a perfectionist, especially in the area of proof reading – she would not accept that from me and had me write and re write papers. It took me a year to a write dissertation proposal she would accept and submit, a year and 5 drafts literally. But in the end I did it and we worked well together. This professor was an expert in social theory and introduced me to so no many intellectual ideas, writers and researchers I had never heard of. We clicked when she talked about her work with The Institute of Paulo Freire – I am a HUGE fan of his work The Pedagogy of Hope and The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. http://www.freire.org/
Our relationship was one of intellectual challenge conversations about social justice, religion, career and being a woman in a man’s world, but we also had great conversations about places to eat in NYC and the mixed blessings of raising kids. I am not sharing this with my readers for sympathy but for three reasons – one to explain where I was last week secondly because we all need heroes, mentors, role models. She was mine, I am absolutely sure I would not have completed such challenging research and a dissertation I am truly proud of without her. In my research I discovered that the success rate between students who have effective role models and those who don’t is astounding – I will write more about it later. Lastly I am writing to remind me, us, that sometimes we have experiences that just take the wind out of our sails, it’s the same for our students, our children, our coworkers. When that happens we have to know how we as professionals can regroup and adjust – and as educators and parents we need to learn what our students and children need to do the same. Yesterday I went for a long walk by the ocean, or as we say in New Jersey at the shore – I tilted my face to the sun and gave thanks for my mentor. I am undoubtedly a better person, professional, educator and writer because she was my role model.