A NOTE FROM EDUCATION REIMAGINED: Refections from the Big Ideas Fest

Dear Pioneers, 

Last week, I had the opportunity to be in attendance at the Big Ideas Fest (BIF) in San Jose, California. This gathering, now in its 7th year, brought together 175 curious practitioners and innovators in the field of education for an immersive design-thinking professional learning experience.
 
What struck me most about the event were the multiple opportunities to practice deep listening.
 
Education Reimagined arose out of a series of deep, intentional dialogues, so we are no strangers to listening, but it was interesting to remind myself just how much value there is in intentionally practicing and honing my listening muscles.
 
The panel on How Might We Create Educational Opportunities to Disrupt the School to-Prison Pipeline provided the first focused opportunity to listen. The audience was asked to actively listen as the panel spoke about their life experiences. Tyson Amir-Mustafa from Five Keys Charter High and Ashanti Branch, Founder of the Ever Forward Club, each spoke about their experiences growing up as black men in America. Tyson refected on his work with young men and women in prison classrooms. Ashanti told of his work with middle schoolers and the dire need for a safe space for young men to express their emotions. Shanley Rhodes, Deputy Director of the Southern Region of Five Keys Charter, spoke about her early experience as a teacher in a failing and violent school environment. All these experiences came from different places and with diferent contexts, but, listening deeply, I heard a common thread—a desire from the young people in these stories to be truly heard, known, and understood. It harkened back to the notion that it is really all about building authentic relationships and hearing someone for who they are and not who we assume them to be.
 
This came into play again—albeit in a less serious way—as I engaged in improv exercises throughout the Fest. These exercises were set up so that participants had to be totally focused to respond in the moment. And, because you can’t know what’s coming, you really had to listen hard to what was being said. So, whether it was during a panel presentation or in-the-moment play, this focus on actually listening surfaced again and again for me—and reminded me of the power authentic listening holds to engage us in something larger than ourselves.
 
Thank you to Big Ideas Fest for a wonderful experience!
Monica Snellings
Publication Date: 
December 18, 2015