Good-bye to a mentor

About a month ago, I had to say good-bye to a mentor from whom I have been learning for the better part of the past decade. No, he didn’t pass away – he is still alive and well – but I realized that I could no longer reconcile my admiration of his educational work with his personal views. Let me explain.

Ever since I began paying attention to “21st century” learning and using the many tools and resources available to teachers and students, I have followed wonderful blog posts and Tweets from this mentor. I’ve learned everything from simple trouble-shooting tips to seeing exciting and dynamic examples of relevant and engaging instruction. This mentor is personable, funny, smart, and I am so glad that he is doing the good work that he is.

And yet…

Having been raised in – and having left – a society where racism, sexism, and bigotry are still very much an accepted part of daily life, I find that my patience with these viewpoints is scarce. Hatred, even in its mildest form of exclusion, has no place in our society in 2011, even especially when it comes under the thin guise of “tradition,” “beliefs,” or “culture.” We live in a multi-faceted, global society where NO ONE should be excluded from pursuing their life’s calling because of their race, gender, or sexual preference.

And so…I unsubscribed from my mentor’s blog, unfollowed his Tweets. A part of me wonders if this very act is also a form of exclusion and if I’m now guilty of hypocrisy. The message I wish to send, however, is the same message I wish we sent to politicians, musicians, sports stars, and anyone else to whom others look for guidance, entertainment, or inspiration: you cannot expect me to join your fan club for the good work you do while turning a blind eye to something as despicable as bigotry.

I wish this person no harm or ill-will and certainly will not engage in slander or anything close to a witch-hunt…I have simply and respectfully removed myself from his list of followers.

If you have a response, I welcome your thoughts…please keep your comments respectful.

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5 responses to “Good-bye to a mentor

  • Karl Fisch

    Very nicely written. I don’t think it’s hypocrisy, but it is a very fine line. I have several folks I learn from who I struggle with, not because of bigotry/racism/sexism, but more because of tone and how they treat some folks. At the moment, I still read/follow them, but I struggle with it.

  • erhubbell

    Karl, thanks so much for your post. I have to admit, I bit a few nails before publishing this…it’s not my usual tone.

    I agree with you about negative tones and snarky responses…I stopped following someone a few years ago due to that. He has great ideas and I agree with most of his viewpoints, but the negatively was so unappetizing that I didn’t want to see it anymore.

  • Whitney Cobb

    Eventually, our personal beliefs seep into our professional practice. I think it means as educators we have a responsibility to look hard in the mirror, for it’s human nature that biases can creep in, or lurk where it never occured to us to shine some light. How can we ask others for the courage that takes if we don’t model it ourselves, as humbling as that can be?

    Perhaps a next step is finding a way to let your former mentor know – respectfully – that you found disconnect in his messages. I hang my head when I get to confront a limit in myself, but it also makes me more resolute in staying authentic to my professed beliefs. Thanks for your post, Elizabeth.

  • erhubbell

    Whitney,

    Thanks so much for your response. While I will certainly consider your suggestion for a next step, I agonized over the thought of even posting this. More than anything, I wanted to put into words my internal struggle with this decision and to see if others have had similar experiences. If the subject of the post happens to read this and rethink his stance, so much the better. I realize that probably is a weaker action, but my hope is that people can sometimes be subtly swayed into considering another’s viewpoint.

    Thank you, again, for responding. I value your opinion more than you could ever know.

  • Teachers T-party

    I think you did the right thing. There is enough negaitvity and bigotry in the world without having it come through our tweets or into our email inboxes. As whitney said, our personal beliefs seep in to our professional practice.

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