Thursday, December 3, 2009

Walking the Talk

Today is the birthday of former news jock, PR executive, schoolteacher, current education wonk and lifelong pal Robert "Pondish" Pondiscio. Pondish was born with the gift of gab. He could start a discussion at the crack of the dinner bell in a firehouse. He could create situations with his patter that wallflowers like me could only have blossom in a file cabinet.

Unlike chatty academics he never used his gift to talk over or around the people he engages. Unlike the more plain-spoken folks he's inclined to side with (and sometimes speak for) he doesn't hang on the porch or in the hood in order to shoot/chew the breeze/fat. To this day Dish in a stupor can talk rings around most communicators in their most lucid moments of peak caffeination.

One life-changing decision he made that inspires great pride in me was his career change from managing media narratives to planting seeds as a grade school teacher in the South Bronx. In addition to math, reading, personal etiquette and crowd control he was probably the closest model that many of his fifth graders came to a daily paternal presence. He put his poverty where his mouth was -- to the tune of seeing his earnings cut by more than half of his former pay rate. Austerity was not a forced vocation for Pondish. Attracting public stares or peer disapproval would not have made this decision harder. Knowing Dish, it might have greased the wheels some.

But no outside influence eases the internal pressures that come with students lacking basic knowledge skills: "I would leave work every day with tire tracks on my back..." Pondish defines the mission and the missionary by what's left "undone" at the end of each school day. He describes how extensive dysfunction begets compassion fatigue and the soft bigotry of low expectations.

His experience was captured at the close of his public school chapter in an interview called "A Teacher's Tale" with Business Week, a former employer. In addition to the war stories there are stellar insights here into the adjustments needed to transition from a corporate culture to a giveback career. You can also catch up with his education policy pulse-taking at his Core Knowledge Blog.

Happy birthday, Dish. Long may you testify.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.