While I’ve listened to every school sucks podcast to date, I can’t remember if ever there was an episode or conversation devoted specifically to mentoring. It certainly has been touched on and covered in the stories Brett tells of his tutoring and other experiences with children, but I would like to see some more discussion on education models that revolve around learning to become a lifelong mentor, not just to your own children but any and all people you come in contact with, through the way you interact with them, feel out what their needs are and attempt to meet those needs, even in short or brief encounters. I believe that this is a world changing idea for both children and the society they will enter and then help create/change.
This has been coming up a lot in my life as of late. I have no children, yet, but most of my friends do. I’ve embarked on a journey to discover how to be the best guide that I can be to any child, not just my own, in which John Gatto has played a major role, among others. I’ve noticed that the way most of them speak to me when parenting or child development comes up in conversation is dismissive, insulting, and downright ignorant. It always comes down to the phrase “You wouldn’t understand, you don’t have kids” and the fall back phrase “I turned out alright” (the second usually in relation to carrots and sticks). And while I agree that the parent-child relationship is unique, I disagree that non-parents are void of insight into such relationships. The conversation usually ends when I point out that there are millions of horrible parents in the world, so being a parent is not the only criteria for being a good parent and knowing what is best for a child, or anyone for that matter.
If the conversation gets past that point, I remind them that I was a child, grew up with other children, have a large family where I had the benefit of observing dozens of parenting models, as well as the fact that I have in my past been given the responsibility of caring for children in the short and long periods of time when they are free from the restrictions of a parent-child relationship. This includes teaching swimming lessons, aquatic life saving skills, health and safety, water safety, canoe/kayak skills (singles and teams), and hockey just to name a few, but these all included personal responsibility, social interactions and general awareness and observations of ones surroundings, which I see as important lessons hidden inside the activities taking place. All places where I can insert ideas whilst not claiming authority or restricting freedom.
Some of my fondest memories are from times when I was able to interact with a child (not as an authority, but as a guide in some activity), figure out his/her needs and meet them in a way that had a maximum benefit to the child or young adult, while also being fun. The first time this concept entered my mind was when I was listening to Jan Irvin of GnosticMedia.com interview Gene Odening on the Trivium and his experience with his mentor(s), few that they were. Until that time I hadn’t considered what my life experiences (adult and child) were or what they meant to me or those I interacted with.
I would just really like to see more discussion of this type of person (child) to person (adult) interaction in a more formal and directed context in the podcast, as I feel that most people and especially parents could benefit from incorporating this idea into their lives. I plan to seek out similarly minded people to help in the guiding of my children, when I have some. Brett, you are more than welcome to join the team.