Tim Gunn on Mentoring: The Natty Professor Book Review

I wouldn’t dream of missing an episode of Project Runway, and I’m full of admiration for Tim Gunn. He has an innate dignity and goodness. Now that I’ve read about the darkness of his own youth and how he was able to defeat his demons, I respect him even more.

In Gunn’s latest book he talks about his teaching philosophy. Oh, there is some celebrity gossip, but it mostly describes what makes a good teacher or mentor. This is valuable information for those in education and business as well.

Gunn is a self-proclaimed lover of acronyms and presents his basics as TEACH

The T stands for telling the truth. Viewers of Project Runway know that Gunn will tell the designers if he doesn’t understand or like what they are doing. He will say it softly, but he will say it.

E is for empathy. It is impossible to teach someone if they do not know where they are from and cannot recognize their strengths.

A is for asking. Gunn strongly believes in the power of questions. He does this not only with his students and apprentices, but also in everyday life. Seeking more information is second nature to him.

The C stands for cheerleaders. Great teachers help students grow by encouraging them and building their confidence. This is the underlying message in every movie you’ve seen where a teacher changes the lives of students.

Finally, the H hopes for the best. Sometimes a teacher just has to loosen up and let the students sink or swim alone. Gunn points out how difficult it is not to become a micromanager or, worse, do the work for the student.

Interspersed with Gunn’s thoughts are many paragraphs from others that talk about the best teacher they ever had and why that teacher was so special.

When American students continue to lag behind those in many other countries, the need for better teachers is clear. When most employees leave their jobs, the need for better mentors is also evident. Gunn believes that a national dialogue on this issue is long overdue. Your knowledge could go a long way towards improving these statistics.

I have suffered from a number of discouragingly poor teachers in my day and a few precious standouts. Who was the best teacher you ever had?