Have you ever had a really crazy idea? One that seems so preposterous it can't be done? One that becomes so ingrained in your thoughts it keeps you awake at night? One that itches to be executed and brought to life?
For me, this idea was TEDxElementary.*
The idea of a TED-style conference for elementary-aged students emerged from an amalgamation of the right people with the right thoughts in the right place at the right time. TED speakers are considered among the most innovative and highly regarded thinkers in the world, which is exactly why we knew it was going to work. The purpose of the conference would be to give young students an opportunity to simulate dialogue within their community on meaningful issues facing them as 21st century learners. Through the process, they would be able to see themselves as part of a larger global picture and understand that their voice is a valid and important part of their community.
After a few bumps in the road, kinks in the plan, and unpreventable outside events, TEDxElementary finally came to fruition this past Tuesday. And it was amazing. My students presented ideas on how they'd change and improve school. They spoke openly and honestly to their audiences with utmost conviction and confidence. Their ideas reflected a need to feel engaged in school and a desire to make healthy lifestyle choices. Some definite themes around technology, school lunch, playground equipment, and making responsible earth-choices emerged. I am proud of the time and effort they put into their pieces, and the end result was an unforgettable and extremely powerful event.
The biggest lesson I learned through this project was the necessity, importance, and ultimate difficulty in "letting go." I'll be the first to admit TEDxElem was my dragon project. It was an idea I clung to, and one I desperately wanted to succeed. There came a point when I realized I had to let go and trust that things were going to be okay, however they were supposed to be okay. I had to let go of preconceived outcomes and expectations in order for this project to breathe and grow organically. I had to let go of my idea and trust it with my students so they could make it their own. Executing this idea was not easy, but the best things in life are worth fighting for. It took courage to move forward and keep moving forward. But it was so worth it.
Through this project, I helped my students find and capture their voice. I provided encouragement and support when they thought it was too hard, and helped them start some much-needed conversations within our school community. In return, they helped me see the world in a new light and push me to become a better educator. My students are such inspiring young people and I have no doubt that they will one day change the world.
I look forward to our next round of TEDxElem in the spring!
*This project is not affiliated with TEDx officially. Maybe one day.