My debt to Sir Ken…

I can think of no more fitting post to inaugurate this blog than to offer thanks to a gentleman who succeeded in setting my hair freshly afire, Sir Ken Robinson.

For any readers unfamiliar with him, this would be a fine time to make his acquaintance via this TED talk:

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a small group discussion with Sir Ken a few weeks ago following his plenary on creativity at the New Jersey Education Association Convention, as it happens, shortly before going in to deliver my own presentation.  I was presenting on digital alternatives to animal dissection, focusing on why we need to let our students inform us as to what they need, and why we need to accept change in our teaching practice based on who these young people actually are, kids very different than we were at their age.

What really struck me about Sir Ken was not only the clarity of his vision, but how he lived it in his person.  There were people in the small group discussion with him, youngsters, really, who asked him very elementary questions, and he moved toward their needs with deep compassion and understanding, truly addressing their learning need of the moment.  I saw, in the flesh, the secret to seizing the teaching moment: compassion.  His was the model I needed an hour later as I faced skeptical New Jersey biology teachers who were precious about their dissection practices.  Those dedicated teachers didn’t need confrontation or correction.  They needed reminding that the students they served were human beings with needs utterly different than their own, and they also desperately needed affirmation that their motives were honorable as they found themselves groping for sound teaching practice in a rapidly changing world.

Sir Ken was the man who introduced the Dalai Lama at the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009, and I had wondered why he had been chosen for that honor.  [Sir Ken: “How do you introduce a man whose name begins with the word ‘The”?”]  After meeting him, I had my answer… creativity, learning, and outright species survival is rooted firmly in compassion, and were all of us to start there (politicians, educators, parents), our education problems would disappear.

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