Who Got You There?

The other day, I was reading an author’s afterword to a book, the kind where the author thanks editors and readers, and family, acquaintances, all of whom made the book possible in the author’s eyes, and something struck me. Rather what hit me was who was NOT thanked, and who seldom is. What about the teacher or the person who turned the author on to reading or writing… or the professor who really helped with developing the author’s ability with words, the early encouragers and mentors?

In my own instance, I know exactly who those people are, and I’ve thanked them repeatedly over the years. My mother was the one who got me interested in science fiction. The late Walter Rosenberry was my high school English teacher who both encouraged my writing and critiqued it unmercifully. Clay Hunt did the same at the college level… and both did so years before I published fiction professionally. That doesn’t mean that later editors didn’t help, because they did, but my basic style and ability to handle words and ideas was largely established long before any editors ever saw a word of my work.

On a more global level, I see the tendency of professionals in a wide range of fields to offer profuse thanks to their “last” instructor or mentor, while ignoring all the others who actually did most of the work. In professional classical singing, singers usually list some distinguished professor or noted singer as being of great help, but seldom mention earlier professors or teachers who gave them a strong basic technique and actually did most of the work in shaping their voice and getting them to a point where the “last” instructor could polish them into professionals.

To be fair, sometimes that “last” instructor does do a great deal of work, but from what I’ve observed, most “last” instructors build on what that budding professional has already learned… and they usually get all the credit.

The same tendency also exists among professional athletes, too many of whom seem to think that they did it all themselves or that a collegiate coach made them the professional they became.

In a similar vein, I’ve also noticed that professors, mentors, and teachers are often publicly recognized in direct relation to how much they praise and encourage students, rather than on how much those professors, mentors, and teachers actually improve their students.

So here’s to the teachers and mentors who have always done the bulk of the work, usually with less pay, less recognition, and fewer resources.

4 thoughts on “Who Got You There?”

  1. John Prigent says:

    I’d like, if I ever wrote a work of fiction, to thank all the teachers at my old school who taught me who to think for myself instead of blindly accepting other people’s conclusions. But I’ll specifically exclude the French teacher who hated my Normano-Breton vocabulary and often punished me for not using the Parisian words that he liked.

  2. Tim says:

    The majority of teachers I had at school were sports-oriented and I was not. Since I loathed rugby and cricket I found I was somewhat isolated. Luckily this awoke in me a rellious attitude so I did well in academic subjects in spite of having little encouragement. So long ago and it still rankles!

  3. Lourain says:

    I would have to thank my parents, for encouraging what became a life-long love of reading, natural history, and science. And for NOT pushing me into the fields considered appropriate to my gender.

  4. Cindy says:

    As a teacher, that would be wonderful but totally not expected. In fact, more often than not, nothing is said at the end even when they have spent countless hours in my office.
    I have noticed that my older students tend to more grateful. There are some youngsters (were talking 18-20 years here) who are but they are becoming fewer as the years progress.
    It is almost expected that teachers will spend all this extra time so no need for thanking …

    That being said, every so often, a student writes back years later thanking me….

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