Teaching Lessons from Project Runway

Today’s New York Times has a piece reflecting on Project Runway’s Tim Gunn as a model mentor.  His tag line — “Make it Work” — can also ‘work’ for faculty members giving students feedback.  In fact, a Tumblr feed called “Academic Tim Gunn” hilariously turns Gunn’s comments on designer choices into advice on a humanities thesis (including advocacy of the Oxford comma).  Sounds silly, but Gunn actually was an academic before he turned basic-cable media darling.  Here’s some of his teaching advice:

  • What makes a good mentor? “Someone who challenges students to do the best work they’re capable of, and a truth-teller about when that work simply isn’t good enough. I’m here to guide, I’m here to support, I’m here to be the cheerleader, but you’re doing the heavy lifting. If you’re thinking you’re going to be a little bird in a nest and I’m going to drop worms in your mouth, you’re wrong.”
  • What advice would you give to other teachers? “Be a keen listener. I learned quickly that if the student’s perception is that you’re not listening to them, and not understanding them, they discredit you. We’re in this together. I want you to ascend.”

About Beth Thornburg

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