Hello, my name is Mary McIntosh, I am a 2017 Bezos Scholar Educator from Memphis, Tennessee and this past July I was given the opportunity through BSP to attend an energy packed two days in Philadelphia at the Educator Summit, sponsored by Character Lab and Relay GSE.
The Summit opened with a thoughtful challenge:
“It is our job as caring adults to create the conditions for kids
to be what they can be”
How could curiosity, growth mindset, kindness and grit play a part in that? Indeed, how could a teacher who adopted a growth mindset transform both her own practice and the classroom culture for enhanced learning? The hundreds of attendees were being challenged to flip the mirror on ourselves. Molly and I were intrigued.
A great mix of Keynote speakers and smaller workshops were tailored to meet the needs of the wide array of attendees from all facets of the educational world. There were updates from Grit scholar David Yeager talking about his recent research, delving into the specific strategies that encourage a growth mindset, and emphasized the role of a passionate teacher with her own growth mindset. Susan Cain spoke about the Quiet Child with cogent suggestions for helping us not to forget those introverts who need, as she stated, “a long runway” in order to engage in class discussion. Dozens of workshops covered the range of grit characteristics and also included grade specific groups that did a deeper dive into the strategies that help cultivate a kinder, curiosity filled classroom.
A particular highlight were speakers Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade and Howard Fuller, both educators who work with historically/systemically oppressed populations and whose keynote addresses were at times uncomfortable. They pushed us outside of our comfort zones, challenging us to educate black and brown children to push against oppressive social and political systems. At one point, Howard Fuller, who heads a charter school in Milwaukee and has been involved in civil rights since the 1960s, thundered, “Grit?! The kids I work with have more grit in their little finger than anyone else I know!” I was impressed that Character Lab and Relay GSE had the courage to bring in speakers who would ask tough questions of us all.
The Summit also provided us a chance to meet other educators from across the country and a variety of disciplines but for me, even more important, was the chance to get to know another BSP Educator Scholar - Molly Diallo - from a different cohort. Sharing our experience working with our young Scholars that super exciting year, and what they were doing now, was a wonderful trip down memory lane reminding me of the commonality the BSP family shares in supporting young leaders, (and the slightly less young educators) in doing work that matters in the world. An added bonus for Molly and me was dinner with Nicole Hanson (former BSP program manager), who attends grad school in Philly and was helping out at the Summit. The final morning Nicole was able to fast-track us in line for a brief chat and picture with Angela Duckworth who was welcoming and genuinely interested in speaking with members of the BSP family!
What have we brought home with us to our classrooms? For me, a renewed emphasis on flipping the mirror inward, and asking myself questions about my own attitude toward kindness. As one of the speakers said, “research shows that relationships matter.” Of course, I have always known that but I am trying to ask myself more intentionally how often I express the value of kindness out loud in the classroom. I am reading during my lunch time Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade’s book ‘The Art of Critical Pedagogy: Possibilities for Moving from Theory to Practice in Urban Schools’ and have already been rewriting portions of my World History course to better reflect his vision of empowering children towards social action that results in systemic change. There was a lot of ponder, to read, and to live into this year in my teaching practice! Thanks to The Bezos Family Foundation for this opportunity to continue spreading the ripples!