- A dialogue with a truly great teacher.
- By Wyatt Rockefeller. Former Student. Film Maker.
Reading Dr. Maxine McClintock’s Letters of Recommendation, I was reminded of the heady pressures that weighed on me and my peers throughout high school. We perceived so little room for error that all too often the expediencies of short-term retention crowded out one’s time and energy for real exploration and investigation.
In Letters of Recommendation, Emilia, a high school senior recently accepted to Harvard has become so disillusioned by the venality of the application process that she questions the value of continuing her education at all. I can relate — high school was a time when many of us began to question, and disagree with, those whose authority we had previously taken for granted. Just as Dr. McClintock did with me and countless other students, the fictional Doc, in response to Emilia’s frustration, engages her in a dialogue to help her through that difficult, often lonely process of learning what she stands for. Through this dialogue, Dr. McClintock teases out a higher purpose of education: to help students discover their individual selves, and, in so doing, empower them to engage with the world on their own terms.
Throughout school, college and graduate school, I had the chance to study with many great teachers and professors; but Dr. McClintock remains the best I ever had. She was that rare mentor who inspired you to work harder than you ever thought you could. For those who’ve never met her, Letters of Recommendation is an opportunity to sit down with one of the world’s great educators, much as her students did, day after day, on the bench outside her office.
Online booksellers carry Letters — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tower Books — and your favorite bookstore can order it for you — Letters of Recommendation by Maxine McClintock is published in The Reflective Commons (New York: Collaboratory for Liberal Learning, 2013). ISBN 978-1-937828-004, $24.95.