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.

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