On Saturday, I was thrilled and fortunate to attend my second TEDxWestVancouverEd at the lovely Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver. This year’s theme was Rethinking Education, and it drew 20 wonderful speakers and over 400 fortunate attendees, many of whom support teaching and learning in the Greater Vancouver area.
The day’s presenters came from a variety of fields from education, to sports, healthcare, and technology. The topics of the short talks were as diverse and compelling as the presenters, yet, each year, I find myself seeking a common thread that I can pull at throughout the day that will weave their stories together in some meaningful way. I do think that each attendee will likely draw from the day a different theme, a different thread, based on the context that they bring with them on the day. I spent my day jotting down words, sentences and phrases that spoke to me and the one that bubbled to the top as I reflected today is compassion. American poet Miller Williams writes about compassion in this way:
“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What seems like conceit, bad manners or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.”
Last year, I also found that compassion was the common thread woven throughout an engaging day of ideas at TEDxWestVancouverEd. I wrote about my TEDx experience here. Yesterday, the thread of compassion ran even deeper in a school year where newly revised curriculum across all grades and subjects is being introduced all at once for the first time, where classrooms are crowded, and where expectations run high. The need for kindness, to ourselves and to others, and compassion for our learners and their stories permeated the often powerful talks that shaped our day together. Here is the thread I experienced.
In the photo you see above Lisa Domeier de Suarez is speaking about maker spaces, wearables and how technology is positively impacting classrooms across her district in Surrey. If you look behind Lisa to her slide, you will see that Lisa understands that no matter how compelling the impact of technology can be on students and their excitement to learn, the human factor is equally as compelling. “The most important thing is how we treat people.”
Langley Kindergarten teacher, Tracy Cramer, shared her story about Lunch With Littles, where Tracy takes time out of her busy week to have lunch with each student, to learn more about them and how she can support their learning. This one-on-one attention over a simple sandwich creates a bond of trust that can only improve her students’ capacity for confidence and love of learning. Tracy’s prompt to us? “Make the best of every day and make your relationships count.”
North Vancouver District Principal and member of the Squamish Nation here in BC, Brad Baker, helped us understand the journey he and his family have been on as he has become a leading educator in his district. It is a story of courage and compassion! Even though Brad’s father experienced the pain and suffering of residential schools, Brad has been able to thrive and succeed through learning about his identity and how it can empower other First Nation teachers and students. Brad’s advice to us? “Go forward with courage.”
Brooke Moore, District Principal of Inquiry and Innovation for the Delta School District, shared that learning is about transformation, that “every child can cross the stage with dignity, purpose, curiosity and options.” Delta’s new Farm Roots project is just the kind of engaging, hand’s on learning that will help foster compassion for others while caring for our planet.
Ian Landy, Principal at Sorrento Elementary in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District, typically known for his creative and inspiring use of technology to enhance learning, shared a different story with us, one that was close to his heart. Ian talked about the importance of empathy when supporting students who struggle with anxiety, which is all too prevalent in our fast-paced schools these days.
Lastly, the word empathy arose yet again in a compelling talk by Dean Shareski and his daughter Martha. Those of us who have heard Dean speak before about the power of joy in education were treated to a more sombre yet more important message that only he and his daughter could best share together. Dean spoke directly to the audience and asked that teachers and parents alike shift our conversations with our sons, daughters and students from “What do you want to be?” to “How do you want to live?” A life dedicated to empathy, beauty and listening to others can only lead to a more compassionate world where we recognize “the wars going on where the spirit meets the bone.”
Thank you to the organizers of TEDxWestVancouverED for yet another inspiring day of idea sharing! I will be thinking about the stories shared on Saturday and will make a much better effort to live my life with a compassionate lens. I have a lot of work to do! It starts with each of us.