Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa, where fall has officially begun! While the College is getting warmer and the Sunken Garden is filling up with sun-soaked students, I am turning on my space heater and bundling up in my cottage. I often wish I could just move from place to place following summer on its annual journey across the globe.
Three Spark Ferndale Primary School students on our playground.
Since I last posted, we opened a school! On January 14, Spark Ferndale Primary School opened its doors, and three months later, we are going strong! The school serves 161 students and their families and employs 9 incredible educators. Our students hail from across Johannesburg; they are eager to learn, absolutely hilarious, and so kind. Our teachers are hard working, mission driven, do-what-it-takes educators committed to their students. I continue to be grateful to serve on the eAdvance team, a visionary crew with a no-excuses attitude. The second school term (of four) began this week, and we are in the midst of celebrating our students’ academic and personal progress from last term. That’s a very short way of saying much has happened since I posted in October, and I have much to be proud of and thankful for.
Practicing my talk in Brinkley Commons at Miller Hall the day before TedxCollegeofWilliamandMary.
During school term holidays, I had the opportunity to return to the United States for about ten days. I spent half the time in California, where I visited friends in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Oakland, and San Jose. I also got to see and teach my former students at Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School during two afternoons. Then, I flew to Richmond, Virginia for the last half of the trip. There, in addition to spending time with family, I had the privilege of speaking at TedxCollegeofWilliamandMary, an independently organized TED event at the College.
Let me give you a peak inside my brain for a moment: I got to return to the place I love the most (the College) to speak at a conference licensed by my favorite “ideas organization” (TED) about the cause I am most passionate about (education reform) alongside the people I most respect (William & Mary students, alumni and professors). I was absolutely thrilled—and also seriously nervous.
The inaugural TedxCollegeofWilliamandMary speakers.
What I should have anticipated was that my talk was not even close to the highlight of my Tedx experience. My talk was the last in a 4 hours series of thought-provoking talks on innovation in storytelling, data-driven international aid, myth in religion, community engagement, gender equity and more. By the time my talk about education reform and habits of innovation came around, I felt like much of what I had to say had been expressed over the course of the afternoon by the other speakers. It’s a beautiful thing to feel like the essence of your ideas is also encompassed in the ideas of others. This community conscience – one that simultaneously values tradition and newness, and in all things, seeks to serve others – may be the William & Mary-est thing about William & Mary.