Those who know me understand that I am the queen of cards. If there is not a holiday card for a holiday I want, I simply will design my own and have them printed or make up a new holiday card tradition. I have friends very excited for the Groundhog Day cards I designed and already had printed for this year.
January has a lot going on. One of my favorite things about the month is that I get to snail mail out my “National Mentoring Month” cards.
When I think of the people that I have learned lessons from or that they took the time to invest in me, I remember my favorite teacher from high school, Mr. Mike Manoloff. That class was my most challenging class my senior year. It rivaled physics and calculus.
This was because Mr. Manoloff had the kind of pedagogy and style of teaching that transcended the subject being taught. He really wanted the class to think complexly about what he was teaching. Advanced Placement government proved to challenge me and him that year.
There was one occasion that made me think he did not like me. I was able to negotiate with him on his curriculum to read a different outside book than the ones that were on his list. I was again the only black person in an advanced class and wanted to read something that was challenging and at the same time spoke to the political history of black folks in America. Mr. Manoloff agreed to let me read and analyze “Souls on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver instead of a Tom Clancy novel assigned to the class.
When I received my paper back I was happy with the grade until I saw the words, “come see me after class.” I always am the person getting in trouble for being outside the box. During our one-on-one I was admittedly scared and then I realized that day that my teacher might like me after all. Mr. Manoloff wanted to know if I was adopting any of the radical black power movement ideas that Cleaver was arguing. I laugh now to think about it. This was a way that this military man wanted to show me he cared. Now all these years later I realize that being creative and disciplined together is dynamic. He always listened to my crazy ideas and gave great feedback.
And he never, even to this day, allows me to settle for just excellence. He is always the person motivating me to procure every gift and talent. I could be better than the level I set for myself. Leave no opportunity wasted.
The world needs more mentors who are like Mr. Manoloff; the kind of teacher who thinks of you holistically and does not know the meaning of settling. We can always be better than who we are right now. Each tomorrow brings with it the opportunity to give. Mr. Manoloff adhered to the doctrine of “paying it forward” and also that we should exhaust our gifts in the effort to help others.
Take the time out to do something for the people whom you deem mentors. Most of the time they never know you would think so highly of them. There is no greater honor than the opportunity to tell people how we appreciate them.
Today is your occasion. “Make a good day,” as Mr. Manoloff would say. And remember we do not achieve in isolation, it is because of the support of others that we reach our eminence.