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TEDx: Ideas Worth Spreading at Saint George's School | News

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TEDx: Ideas Worth Spreading at Saint George's School
News, Schools

(Updated 6:06 p.m.) - It's the first of its kind to be held in the Spokane area. A home for all those ideas bubbling inside you. Saint George's School, tucked away in a rural area of north Spokane County, is playing host to TEDx, an independent version of TED, an annual conference for ideas worth spreading.

Speaking today, innovators, educators and even doctors, they have an idea. What they say will be heard by a crowd filling the school's theatre. Outside the school, a creek trickles and Riverside State Park towers over. Inside, the middle school choir starts the conference with Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

The theme is broad, but today the audience will learn about action, ideas and passion. Here are some of the presenters and their thoughts: 

Kitara McClure: Action. Ideas, Passion ...and Time

The conference begins with words from Kitara McClure, the multicultural director at Spokane Community College. She grew up in inner-city Chicago, the Southside she called it. She was one of 13 children. She went to school every morning, passing by vacant buildings and pools of jellied blood.

She says, "You shouldn't have to think about that before school."

That wasn't the only obstacle. She was forced to join a gang. They stabbed her, left her bleeding. The men wouldn't drive her to the hospital because they didn't want her bleeding life to stain their car.

"The inside of their car was more valuable than me," McClure said. She added: "I was bleeding on the southside of Chicago, about to die."

She showed us the scars from the incident that line her neck around her color. The white turtleneck she wears for the presentation covers them from view from the audience and cameras. She'll never lose those.

She joined the military where she became an commissioned officer. She got there because she had ideas, McClure said. "I was passionate about a lot of things."

In Spokane, she takes her passion and paves the path for at-risk youth to create their own passions with a little creativity. She reduced the number of youth loitering around the downtown Plaza. Too many times kids say there's nothing for them to do. She shows them how to discover their own passions and make that their program to make the world better. McClure's passion is with the kids because that's where all the trauma starts.

She ends by saying, "Never let go of your ideas."

Carroll Stevens: Disruptive Technology in Education

Carroll Stevens starts by saying that all children can learn and succeed. He references a ten year improvement in one school. The kids showed they could do it when the adults got organized. He works for Cambridge Education, enhancing student outcomes through organization.

Is that what it takes to improve test scores? Stevens says adults need to be part of the national conversation and policy, adding everyone, adults and children, should be held accountable.

Stevens uses a lot of data to back up his success with improving the outcome of student education. Something interesting to note from his presentation, regarding some countries in South Asia, which he caters to while working for the global company, Cambridge Education, he says the best things one can do have a successful career in that country is to learn vocational English. In Bangladesh, Stevens says it's one of the lowest literacy rates in South Asia.

Margo Long: Gifted Education

Margo Long's presentation started off with technical difficulties. Without skipping a beat, she segwayed from her presentation to: "That fascination of doing it well - like having your mic on." The production crew had her start the presentation over. The re-do reminded her of her love for film especially The World of Hugo. She also loves Meryl Streep, but that's another story for another time.

Long is all about teaching bright people. And to Long, everyone is bright. She teaches teachers how to teach in their gifted program. She's retired from Whitworth as a professor emeritus, but she says once you discover your passion, it's no longer a job. You don't retire from passions.

"We don't tell them they're gifted anymore," Long said. She explores a "gross mindset", which is a more curious mind that is excited to try new things. But she says her strong gifted program in schools will spread and improve the quality of everything it touches. It takes work though. Until you've sent the 10,000 hours, you haven't gotten there.

Long says: "Are you going to do it right? Are you going to do it well? Because it's going to take 10,000 hours."

When using computers, she wants kids to understand authenticity, copyright and sources, the difference of opinion. She wants to know how to make kids work like the employees of Facebook, juggling playing speed chess but getting their work done and doing it well.

One of the best ways to succeed Long says, is to invest in the teacher.

Justin Heftel: Collaboration

A student from St. George's School, Justin Heftel, is one of the speakers today. He walks on the stage with something a little heavy on the mind. Little did the audience know, this guy was going to present the craved foundation for any office: collaboration. Not everyone gets to work alone like Batman, but for the rest of us, we need to rely on three things to make it work.

1. Communication

Justin says if you have relevant info that others lack, share it simply and patiently. If you lack the info, listen. He uses the relationship of a conductor and a musician to make this work. A conductor must trust a musician to listen. A musician must trust a conductor to tell them what to do. He also called that a dictatorship, but that's besides the point.

2. Llabor

Justin makes another reference to the workings of a symphony to make this explanation work. All the players must do their part for the musical performance to succeed. Why is labor spelled with two Ls? It's twice as hard.

3. Education

Justin says everyone must know the overall goals and it must be accessible to everyone.

Co-ll-abor-ation. Get it?

We were wondering what the deal with the symphony references were, so we asked Justin during the break and he says he's a pianist and sings tenor. Speaking of music, he let us know about an upcoming benefit for Second Harvest. This Friday, he's performing at Steinway Piano Gallery in Spokane Valley at 7 p.m. 

Lisa Bliss: No Failure in Trying

Lisa Bliss walks on stage with a cart adorned with the local non-profits logo for Crosswalk. It looks like something you'd attach to the back of a bicycle for a long trip. She used it for a long trip, but it wasn't attached to a bicycle. She dragged the cart all the way to the summit of Mount Whitney in California, the highest summit in the United States.

"What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail," Bliss asks. Go to the moon? Mars? Maybe do whatever it is you dreamed of. For Bliss, her hike up the summit was it. She wanted to support Crosswalk because their mission hit her in the heart. As someone that didn't graduate high school, she wanted to make it possible for other to do so.

She tells the audience that baby steps are okay in accomplishing goals. So are feelings. It's okay to cry and have self-doubt. Bliss almost didn't make it to the summit. The pass almost did her in. The slight increase in grade and wind held her at a stand still.

"I didn't know what to do. I wasn't going to quit," Bliss said. She never thought about it. She knew the kids back at Crosswalk in Spokane were watching her travels on a GPS. For twenty minutes, there was a dot representing her and it wasn't going very far.

She suddenly figured out that by zig-zagging across the road, that got her farther then going straight up. Don't get so bogged down by the straight path that you miss the alternative route.

The one rule to her adventure, she could not receive help. Everything she did was unsupported and self-contained. Everything she needed, water, food, was in that cart and she brought it with her from the start.

"There is no such thing as unsupported. I didn't do this because of me, I did this because of my family, friends and Crosswalk," Bliss said.

89 hours later, Bliss made it. The arrival wasn't a party even though she brought cigars. On the way back down, there was nothing but hail, lightning and raining.

Josh Hayes: Avoiding Bad Ideas

Josh Hayes, a teacher at Saint George's Middle School wants to stop bad ideas. For example, here's an actual conversation he overheard between two teenage students that exemplifies bad ideas.

Teen #1: Man, she is so hot.

Teen #2: I hear she stabbed her last boyfriend.

Teen #1: Oh. But man she is so hot.

"As long as the male teenage libido is in place, we will not avoid bad ideas," Hayes said. Even if that is unavoidable, there are other forms of bad ideas that are.

If you're a parent, are you going to let your child attempt to launch his career in "quidditch" from the rooftop, broom in hand? Probably not. Hayes says education is the key to avoiding bad ideas. Indulging curiosities through Montessori programs does not do whats needed to avoid bad ideas. There's no substitute for formal education, Hayes argues. He hopes for more teacher-centered education with the dreaded lecture.

Issac Newton didn't do it all on his own. Hayes says he stood on the shoulder of giants, those who had gone before. In today's education that's coaches, teachers and parents. They need to lift the next generation so they don't make the same mistakes.

Avoiding teaching them what to think, bombarding them with facts, but focusing on teaching them how to think. Hayes says students need to learn how to make better strategic decisions. New curriculum is needed to better focus on that.

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