I’ve been pretty fortunate in my career so far.

When I transitioned from cooking to teaching I left a very familiar world behind.

Arriving in a classroom and a new career meant my search for mentors would begin anew. That’s a thing with me… I learn best from people. I learn best from people in some sort of social setting. I need stimuli from seeing, doing, and especially hearing and feeling. While I was learning to cook, I hungrily sought out apprenticeship opportunities under anyone that would teach me.

The funny thing about the hospitality industry is that the competition for customer dollars created many closed doors for me. Often when I asked a chef colleague to share their knowledge I was met with the raised eyebrow skepticism of mistrust. And in some cases, flat out refusal.

I guess I was a bit naive to think that my questions could be perceived as anything other than stealing trade secrets…but that is how it can be in a pay to play industry. The knowledge holders become gatekeepers and gatekeepers exist to protect their stake.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I found many people to help me. Often when I asked, the best of the bunch were overjoyed and surprised to share. They also sometimes were a bit embarrassed by the recognition- they knew their work was good, but rarely felt that positivity from the outside.

The reality check that face punched me in my first week of teaching was that teacher’s college only got me part way to preparedness. In some ways, all it did was inject me with confidence…competence, not so much. And the knockout happened when I asked for help.

I guess I was a bit naive to think that my questions could be perceived as anything other than stealing trade secrets…but how could that be in a public school system? The knowledge holders were gatekeepers and gatekeepers exist to protect their stake. Their stake, not the students, not their community’s, not the schools. Now maybe asking to borrow a binder or two or three [if I am being honest] can seem like stealing and I only did it a few times. I stopped doing it altogether because of the overwhelming guilt that came as a side dish in the transaction. I was new, I had nothing to trade, and I dared to ask the most qualified gatekeepers of the bunch.

I am now in my 12th year of teaching and still chasing competence. But that newbie experience has left a permanent impression on me. I did not have the edubabble to frame my mindset at the time but I have come to embrace, fully and completely, open source and growth mindset. The only thing better than asking me for my help, my thoughts, or my resources would be offering me your iteration of my learning that you found posted, placed, or printed somewhere. That would be cool.

At this point in my game, I fully recognize the power of lifelong learning. And that there is a distinction in its pursuit. Since coming into education I have had many mentors that either through intent or accident have kept me informed, inspired, and fascinated. I will throughout my blog posts make intentional account of the ways that my current mentor list has helped me.

All that I ask of you is that you pay it forward – maybe even before you are asked.