I have not ever been a conventional academic. Oddly, this popular book came to me from a highly academic friend whose research into Oscar Wilde's life has dovetailed with an interest in Tim Gunn. So I read Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work by the man himself.
Gunn has taught at Parsons, and while many of his anecdotes are about Project Runway, his role on that show is as a kind of teacher. So this book is really a long story about living as a teacher.
It was heartening to me to see that even Tim Gunn must occasionally deal with the scorn of students. Quote, heavily excerpted:
"Two of the best designers... seemed to have disdain for me. It was a lot of scorn to soak up. I said to one of them: 'I feel an obligation to each of you, and an aspct of that is to give you equal time in the workroom. But if you don't want it, we can talk to the producers.' But they kept having me there, and it began to hurt." (p. 22)
"My feeling is that people should want to be nice, but even if they don't want to be, they should fake it, because being abusive to someone who's deeply involved in the industry you hope to excel in just makes not sense. What do they get out of making me, or anyone, into an enemy?" (p. 23)
(Amen, Tim Gunn. Academia, listen up!)
This next quote has become a key element for me in my broad teaching roles now, as faculty member and administrator. It relates to giving and how much and how deeply to give, especially to those who aren't capable (perhaps yet) of receiving or who are using an authority figure to fail so that they don't have to take responsibility for failing, not trying, or not wanting to reach the goal. Gunn tells a brief story about a student who was very talented but simply never showed up for class. He gave the teacher advice to fail the student, who had been a complete absentee aside from some emails (and no explanation). She did, with the condition that the student could appeal to raise the grade. The student didn't, "And we all learned something: The teacher wanted the student to succeed more than the student did." (p. 33)
Here's the gem that I have absorbed and return to often: "From a faculty member's point of view, I have this refrain: Why should I want you to succeed more than you do?" (p. 34)
And a few more classically Tim Gunn fun quotes:
"When people have a choice between two similarly talented people and one is a drama queen and the other is responsible and friendly, whom are they going to pick?" (p. 63)
"Call me a schoolmarm, but few things make me angrier than people not taking good care of library materials." (p. 138)
"Risk taking in fashion is fun, but risk taking in our careers and our education is essential." (p. 231)
"Maybe that's why I like etiquette so much: manners help us deal with the way things are, with the place we find ourselves in, whatever that is. Rules of behavior come in handy when you can't think straight, as when you're extremely happy or sad over a major event like a birth or a death." (p. 250)