Monday, September 2, 2013

The Virtual Mentor: a procedure to connect a young person to a mentor without the hassle of bringing an adult into a school.

Dennis Littky writes about the importance of mentors ....

well, for copyright reasons, only a few words will be shown here.   

From page 128
See his book, The Big Picture.
Free chapters from his book (published by
Free chapter in Portuguese
Free Chapter in Spanish (coming soon)


Headaches with visitors

In many schools, the respected expert is treated like an unknown stranger:
-- finger prints before you can meet with students
-- background check
-- monitoring by the school staff while you are on campus
-- no contact between you and the students (for fear of pedophiles)

The mentor gives up at least an hour for every 30-minute visit to a classroom.  I once spent 20 minutes driving to a school, then 10 minutes getting through the security, then the 30 minutes in a visit, then extracting myself from the classroom, then another 20 minutes to drive.   It was over an hour and I felt that the students had benefited, but they really needed more contact.   It would be better to have multiple small-group meetings than to have a single "whole group" meeting.

How can we get around these obstacles?

Here's the procedure:  The Virtual Mentor.

As a reward to students who have completed a set of worksheets, 
GET THE FREE EBOOK called Virtual Mentors....

I'm a teacher in Miami.  I have a procedure called "The Virtual Mentor."  I look for adults who love learning, who appear to love life and who appear to embrace challenges.   I ask those adults to visit my class "virtually" and to tell students something about their approach to problems, how they look for infomration and to tell us what magazines they read.   I ask for your best method of contact (email or mobile phone text) and then I find two students who are given the task of writing a question no more than once a month ...  it is a five-minute contribution of your time.   You reply to the question and then you hear nothing more from the students for another 30 days.   If you want more contact, then you can initiate the contact.   All contact is done through me, where you reply to the question that I've sent.

I look forward to having you contact me at ... send me your reply to the following questions....

Here are some general questions

1. What quotations inspire you?

2. What books do you like (and why)?

3. What do you recommend for students to study?

4. What do you remember from school that was useful?

5. What magazines do you read at least once a year?

6. Can you recommend an article that you found interesting?

7. How did you get your current job?

If you would like to become a Virtual Mentor, please write to and answer the questions in GREEN above.

Let's start with parental concerns:

a)  are you letting my daughter write to a complete stranger?  Are you out of your mind?
ANSWER:  The stranger has been vetted by the teacher.
The stranger writes a reply to me, the teacher, and I strip the contact information from the email.  Then the daughter can write a reply.

b)  What is the purpose of this activity?   This is a math class.   
ANSWER:  the mind often needs a "vacation."   The class is 100 minutes and I want students to practice being adults.  They can work on the tasks in any order and they can write a letter at some point in the 100-minute class.


If I ask adults to go through this process, I should submit myself to the same process of answering these questions.

Here is my reply:


Since I'm asking you to spend some time to complete this form, I am going to do the same thing.

1. What quotations inspire you?
I like lyrics from musicals (Sound of Music, 1776, The Little Mermaid, Man of La Mancha)
I like "The Impossible Dream" and I've memorized six lines from a poem called Equipment by Edgar Guest.   Courage comes form the soul within, the man must furnish the will to win so, figure it out for yourself, my lad, you were born with all that the great have had, with your equipment they all began, get hold of yourself and say, "I can."

2. What books do you like (and why)?
Arthur C. Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth
around page 156 is a  word about "ablation" -- a shield of ice is used on the front of a ship to absorb particles that the ship rams into.  The Ablative shield eventually wears away
cool word.

I also like a book called The Big Picture (2004 by Dennis Littky) because it redefines the relationship between schol and community.  We taxpayers shouldn't assume that teachers and parents have the entire burden of guiding young people to adulthood.   There is a place for mentors.

3. What do you recommend for students to study?
I like biographies, magazines and newspapers.  A kid can learn a lot from wandering through text and then perhaps the kid will begin asking questions.

4. What do you remember from school that was useful?
I particularly liked it when our classes were visited by strangers.   Those experts allowed us to ask them questions.

5. What magazines do you read at least once a year?
Smithsonian, National Geographic, Psychology Today, ASCD Educational Leadership (for teachers), Digital Photography Magazine, National Geographic Explorer, Discovery magazine, Men's Health, Reader's Digest, Sierra Club, National Rifle Association newsletters, ...

6. Can you recommend an article that you found interesting?
There is a fascinating article about the difference between grass-fed beef and corn-fed beef.  The article appeared in the July 2012 issue of Psychology Today.  I found it amazing that omega-3 fats are so differently distributed in the meat of cows.

7. How did you get your current job?
I kept interviewing until I found a boss who had a vision about what "work" is.  He has an idea about how to get through the day and arrive at the end with something accomplished.


If you are inspired to become a virtual mentor, please call me  +1 (954) 646 8246 or write to me on SKYPE  SteveEnglishTeacher or send me an email   

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