Mentoring – The Highest Calling

I’ve been thinking about mentors.  I’ve had two teachers in my life that became mentors for me.  One was my high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Mellion; and the other was a professor of mining engineering here at Virginia Tech – Dr. William E. Foreman. 

Mrs. Mellion did more then just stand and teach chemistry to me.  She took me under her wing.  I took her chemistry class during my junior year in high school.  I was fascinated with chemistry, and had studied it on my own for years before I took her class.  I loved chemistry.  It showed.  She obviously appreciated a student that was actually interested in what she was teaching, instead of the normal “just trying to survive.”  Also, she was interested enough in what she was teaching to appreciate a kindred soul.  During my senior year, she let me grade papers and help with her lab experiments, probably with the thought of grooming me to be a teacher.  She heard of a competitive test in chemistry for a scholarship at William and Mary, and signed me up for it.  I was headed to GuilfordCollege, but Mrs. Mellion changed my life in ways I’ll never know.  I went to William and Mary.

 I first meet Dr. Foreman in 1973 when I came to Tech to pursue an MS degree in mining engineering.  Everyone called him “Prof.”  Prof was a great guy from the start.  He was willing to listen – even to a junior person – and find out what that person wanted to do, and help him do it.  He was very patient and understanding.

When I graduated, and the mining industry was down, Prof hired me on a research project he had.   Then as that wound down, he heard that MSHA was hiring engineers and brought it to my attention.  30 years later, I’m retiring from what has been a great career!

 I owe a lot to both these people.  After thinking about all of this, I agree with Kennedy – that mentoring is the highest calling.

Never Discourage Youth

After last night’s class, I just had to hit the blog again.  I (we) had another example last night of a teacher/counselor that told a student that “they couldn’t do…” or “they would never do…” something with their education/lives/etc.  This burns me up!  I would like to think that educational authority figures would be doing everything they could to encourage young people, not crushing out whatever sparks may be there.  This is kind of like playing God.  The authority figure is potentially limiting the potential of a person who is in a very formative stage.  Yikes!    I remember reading a biography of a scientist/educator (I don’t remember who) some years ago, and I vaguely remember a saying this scientist/educator had.  I tried to google variations of the saying to try to track down the person and the exact quote, but I didn’t have any luck.  Anyway, the point of the quote was that when it comes to education/livelihoods:  “Never discourage youth”  

Millennials and Old Farts

Well, I just took the “millennial test” – and, as expected, I scored “old fart.”  Because – hey – that’s what I am!  A good, solid “15.”  Of course, I knew as I was taking the test that if I admitted to having tattoos and piercings in unmentionable (at least by MY generations’ standards) areas of my body, as well as admitted to not having a landline, and spending all day texting and playing games on a phone that was smarter than I, that I could have “raised” my score.  But – what of it?  This is right up there with not having ever had a blue M&M!  These factors may indeed define a slice of new or old citizens, but didn’t we already know that?  And are blue M&M’s and tattoos the ultimate determinant of a “mindset,” or just the latest fad for a bunch of “whipper-snappers”?  Every generation has to have it’s fads.  I knew that when I was growing my hair long and smoking but never inhaling! 

And what happens to millennials when the high winds of a “dewretched” hit and knock-out all the power to the cell towers?  They’re adrift in an ocean!  My generation can live without cell-phones.  After all, we grew up inventing games around sticks and stones!  🙂