Tuesday, March 1, 2016

#SOL16: Mentor

Rob and Devon (2000)
In this post, a friend who was mentored by Rob writes. She sent me the following email and gave me permission to post it. It helps so to know how Rob has given to others. I know how Rob's love has manifested within our small family, but it is so enriching to hear other stories.  Rob would love the exchange of stories as he valued stories and storying so greatly. Thank you, Erica for sharing this story.

Mary Ann,

It feels terribly awkward to say that I look forward to your posts but they make me feel so deeply. Your beautiful, honest writings move me and I'm sure all who read them, whether they know Rob personally or not. I would like to share with you how your gentle giant came into my life. 

I am Rob's student.

FAMS has a Living Lessons program every other year and I took a day off to volunteer for this organized symposium of speakers who share personal struggles with the students to educate and inspire. The theme that year was Reflect, Respect, Remember. There were a few Holocaust speakers, a handler with a rescue dog, and various others. I knew Rob peripherally as the English teacher that looked like a guy on the left and maybe a little "leftover" from the 60's. :) 

By divine fortune, Rob and I sat down at a lunch table together with a woman who was sitting alone. She had escaped the Rwandan genocide and was happy to have lunch-mates . We three broke bread as strangers but within minutes communed as family - humans sharing the same planet. I was amazed at the depth of compassion, intelligence and pure goodness in your husband. This combination is so rare, so beautiful and I dared to dream that I could hear more of what he had to say. I was subbing in the building and he took me under his professional wing and guided me in ways that I knew, even then, that were shaping me as an educator. Maybe he saw me as clay......turning me to his ways of touching students, enriching them with a genuine interest in their stories......he spoke often of stories and encouraged me to draw, think and listen to stories. He told me of your stories and your art, he also told me of Devon's art with computers and building. 

"Better we ask what influence on students' lives has the teacher had than what score on a single measure.  The single measure rarely matters.  The influence almost always does."

I began working in an autism program with preschoolers while studying at Seton Hall and he became my mentor. I don't know how it happened but I suppose he has such a strong belief in filling the world with goodness that he took it upon himself to try to teach me all that I lacked. He emailed me, pushed me to ask and answer hard questions and permitted me to bounce my questions off of him. We met for coffee and sometimes all I could do was to take notes on who I should be reading or what I should be researching. He had so much to share and always so generously. I knew how important his ideals were to him and the work/art/craft of educating and I will be forever grateful for his tremendous impact on me. I have all of our correspondence saved (mostly because it has always been so content-rich and I never have time to look up his recommendations at the moment.) At some point, I would like to print and give to you for Devon. Maybe someday he will want to look at the things his dad tried to teach others...one of the ways he spread some of his goodness around.  I promise to do my best to honor this master teacher. 

It is a privilege knowing your Rob and I am humbled by the gift of his friendship.

I remain Rob's student.
Reflect, Respect, Remember


  1. Beautiful post, Erica. The Rob that Erica knew sounds very familiar to me. During the days I spent with him in the past months, especially those at home when he still had strength, and hope ("I'm going to write about that as soon as I get cancer out of my face"), he was first and foremost a teacher. There were films he said I must see, and authors that I didn't know that I had to start reading at once. One day the book Godel Escher Bach came up, and I told him I had once owned it but didn't know where it was any more, and had never finished it. He said he'd lend me his, then said he thought maybe he could download it. By the time I got home, it was in my inbox. Always connecting people with information or art, like any good teacher.

    And Rob's voracious appetite for books, film, comedy, music, reminds his voracious appetite for food. Again, precision. He stipulated exactly what to eat and where to get it. I smile when I think about it.

    Rob, Mary Ann, Devon, and Anita, I love you all, and miss Rob already.

    Mary Ellen

    1. Mary Ellen, he so enjoyed your literary visits where the two of you talked books. You have been such a good friend to each of us, all of us.

    2. The pleasure was mine, throughout. Love you all...........


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