The main teachers and mentors of Finding the Good are part of a learning community, not a teaching institution. Students and teachers learn together. We use the term mentor to refer to the teachers who are with the Finding the Good students on a regular basis, and also those who we meet on our travels to interview and learn from. Both types of mentors are the kind of people who have lived full lives, who are passionate about learning and sharing what they learn and what they know. They care about humanity and life on earth, and understand that teaching, like parenting, is a sacred calling. They know that it is the highest responsibility and the greatest honor to teach and learn with young people.
In letters to the schools, Volume II, J. Krishnamurti wrote, “Our…intent is to bring about a good, intelligent, extremely capable, free human being. This is my intent as a dedicated teacher, and it should be yours, too, as parents. It should be the intent of all humanity, for we are all concerned… The future is our responsibility, so this is our immediate problem. My problem and yours is to cultivate the comprehensive intelligence from which all other things flow.”
In his lifetime, Krishnamurti founded schools in England, India and the U.S. that are still in operation today. He knew that for society to change, education had to change first to an approach that nurtured the whole human — teachers and students alike. We fully embrace these values at Finding the Good.
In addition to teachers, there are between two and six positions per semester for student interns – college students who are fulfilling an internship as part of their studies, or independently. This learning and teaching opportunity gives interns the chance to participate with a high level of responsibility and in-life career training.
As a young man, Tom followed two of his passions: wilderness education, and fine wood working. After being trained by the Yosemite Search and Rescue team, he struck out on his own and started a woodworking business. His work was represented in shops and galleries in eight western states. He taught industrial arts at a private art institute, and construction technology at the community college level. With the woodworking business well established, he then co-founded a non-profit educational organization and built the outdoor education program from the ground up, drawing on his experience as a challenge ropes course trainer with such institutions as Project Adventure, On Course, and the University of California/Los Angeles. His expertise in the wilderness as a teacher and guide ranges from whitewater rafting and canoeing, to rock climbing and backpacking. As part of his early non-profit work, he studied land use/planning and eventually came to manage one of the largest earth construction/green building projects on the west coast. Tom has worked in the non-profit business sector since 1985 applying his skills in cooperation, teambuilding and consensus leadership. As executive director and co-founder, Tom brings his diverse background to Synergia’s organizational structure, service learning and community building curriculum.
Debra’s background in education began when she and Tom decided to homeschool their daughter. After co-founding a non-profit organization in 1986, she expanded on the community education classes she developed, and with Tom ran the Outdoor Education department of the organization, serving as a challenge ropes course trainer, wilderness teacher and guide. From 1990 to 2002 she served the organization as secretary of the Board of Directors. Debra has authored numerous articles on parenting and education, she is the co-author of the book Win-Win Games for All Ages, Cooperative Activities for Building Social Skills, and speaks on these topics at conferences. She was the creator and host of two long running radio programs Circle Around, celebrating children’s literature, and Those Damn Kids, a teen forum. As co-founder and program director, Debra brings to Synergia a diverse background in outdoor education, media literacy, and parenting/education.
Ordinary People as Extraordinary Teachers
We can’t say enough about the power of intergenerational mentorship. Think of the people in your life who have positively impacted you in a personal way. Maybe you were 12. Maybe you were 14, or 37, or 52. Something about the presence of that individual touched you and you were receptive to learning from her or him, absorbing not just information but a sense of their humanness, their concerns and passions – their goodness. Finding the Good mentors are not just top in their field and are not simply purveyors of information. They themselves have found goodness in their lives, and they carry that with them in their being.
The interaction actually inspires the learner to recognize and develop similar attributes in themselves. In other words, you were changed (for the better) by the presence of that person. And it is not just a one-way transmission but rather an exchange — the mentor gains equally by passing onto others directly, an important part of themselves. We might say that goodness transfers from one person to another – it flows and moves and returns from where it began, increased and strengthened.
At Finding the Good, we seek out extraordinary teachers and we go to them. They may not even think of themselves as teachers, but in the truest sense, they are. They are individuals who possess the kind of substance, commitment, and passion that a young person can relate to and aspire to. We have met many such individuals over the years, almost none of them in an academic setting. We have established long-standing relationships with many of these people and have become good friends. We have traveled long distances just so our students can sit with them, inquire with them, and soak in their presence, their knowledge, and their goodness.
Mentoring at Finding the Good takes two forms. One involves meeting, interviewing, conversing with, and recording professionals in the various study areas. This may be a two-hour interview and conversation with, for example, an inventor working on biomimicry innovations, or a discussion with a world-class biologist. Mentoring also refers to the ongoing day-to-day mentoring that happens with the primary teachers.