Monday, December 6, 2010

Great Teachers Who Aren't Teachers #3

Over the years I have learned a tremendous amount of information from people who aren't teachers. The third one I want to write about is a former boss.

When I graduated from college there were no teaching jobs immediately available. I worked as a cashier at a discount store for about a month, but I was not cut out for that line of work. After a trip to Job Service, I was given an interview at a publishing company. This company had several components, but my interview was in the radio department. After taking a test and surviving a lengthy questioning, I landed the job.

Now this job was about as far from my college major as could be. I had a degree in high school mathematics education. For this job I was writing blank radio advertisement. The department put out 3 publications every month. The first was for Continuity Directors and consisted of about 50 or more pages of radio ads organized by topic from Automobiles to Mortuary to Women's Wear. The second publication was Program Directors. It contained "Thot Starters" (one liners that could be used to write an ad) and tons of trivia. The third was for Station Managers. It provided summaries of promotions and contests with which other radio stations had had success.

The first day of the new job, my boss showed me to my desk, gave me the list of pages I was to write for the month, and a brief explanation of the kind of writing I was to do. Using samples from previous publications, and after asking someone how to turn on an electric typewriter, I started on my first page. I was able to write about six 30-second spots plus a few "thot starters." I turned it in and started on my next page. It wasn't long before my boss called me to her desk, offered me a chair, and together we went over every ad spot I had written. We talked about creativity, getting the customer's attention, word choice, punctuation, and numerous other techniques for excellent radio ad writing.

I took the page back to my desk and rewrote it. Once again she called me to her desk. Once again I rewrote the page. I did this three times before she approved it. I think I had the ads memorized by this time, but I must admit, the ads were pretty good...much better than those I had written on my own.

My boss did this with every page I wrote for several days. She was well-informed and intelligent, but most of all she was patient. She was an excellent teacher. The greatest accomplishment of that training period was when I wrote the first page that she approved without a rewrite. From then on, the job was a joy. I eventually worked up to writing about 15 pages per month for the Continuity Directors publication, three or four pages for Program Directors, and was put in charge of the Station Managers booklet.

The Station Managers publication furthered my education even more. I scoured newspapers for radio promotions and contests, requested information from the radio stations, put it all together, and even did the layouts for printing.

Not only did I learn about writing and advertising, but I also learned a tremendous amount of information about the topics that we researched to put in the advertisements. All in all, the two years I worked there were amazingly rewarding. I think I learned more in those two years than in all my years in college. I actually looked forward to Monday's and that's not something too many people can say.

But the most important part of all this was my boss. She was one of the best teachers I ever had.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Great Teachers Who Aren't Teachers #2

Yesterday I wrote about my father as being a great teacher in my life. I also wrote about how important parents are as their children's first teachers. In that same vein, I'd like to write about my mother, another one of my great teachers.

My mother grew up during the depression. Even though her father did have a job throughout that time, he was an alcoholic and drank away most of the money he made. She dropped out of school her junior year and got married when she was 17 to my father. I was born three years later.

She was basically a "tomboy" when she was young and hadn't learned a lot of the things she needed to know to be a wife and mother. And yet, somehow she managed pretty well. She did eventually go back to school and even took some college classes, but most of her education was experience-based. I always admired her for that.

She did two things that made her one of my great teachers. The first one is that she taught me through her mistakes. I was constantly reminded how important education is. I was constantly told that I would finish college and then I could get married. I can't say that she said these things out-loud, but these ideas, along with others, were always implied.

The second thing she did was instill a love of books in me. When I was in the hospital a few times as a child, she would buy me new books to read. When there were things she thought I needed to know, she would check out books from the library. These were things that were important for me to know, but she felt she didn't have enough information herself or she just didn't want to discuss them with me. She and my father also purchased a set of encyclopedias when I was about eight or nine years old. I knew they couldn't afford them, but it was a sacrifice they made because they knew that education was the key to any kind of success.

At this point, I just want to say that I love them, admire them, and thank them for all they did.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Great Teachers Who Aren't Teachers #1

There are so many people I've met over the years who have taught me so many things. Most of them were not teachers, but from whom I've learned so much.

The first one is my father. In the few years I was able to be with him, he played a major role in the formation of my personality, my knowledge base, and my desire to learn.

When I was young, probably three or four years of age, he worked on televisions. These were the old televisions...the kind with tubes. He carried a case that was filled with all different kinds of tubes. And I was his tube-getter. He would take me along on these repair jobs. While he was stuck behind the broken TV, pulling out burned-out tubes, he would tell me the numbers on the tubes, and I would get the ones he needed and take them to him.

I don't know if his actual purpose was to teach me, but teach me he did. I learned how to read numbers, I learned how to memorize, I learned to be responsible, I learned how good it feels to do a job that pleases someone, and I developed an ability to fix things.

The second way he taught me was through conversation. Every Sunday we would eat dinner at my grandmother's house. Dinner would be over in 20 minutes, but the conversation would go on for one, two, or even three hours after dinner. Everything was discussed and everyone, even the kids, were part of that conversation. I learned a tremendous amount of information during those long talks every Sunday. I'm sure those were the major contributors to my views on education, politics, religion, and lots of other topics.

My father was not a teacher. He had been a city bus driver, an electrician, and maintenance worker. He grew up on a farm and only had an 8th grade education. But I learned more from him than all my certified teachers combined.

I think that parents need to remember that they are their children's first teachers. The influence of parents in those early years of child's life determines everything that child will be in the future. Too many parents leave their children to be taught by the child's friends, the television, computers, and computer games, rather than spending time with the child themselves.

I don't care how busy you are...spend quality time with your children. They really will appreciate it because you are important to them!