The following post comes from Anthony Lees of Broadclyst Community Primary School. Anthony is one of the UK MIEEs who recently travelled to the E² Global Educator Exchange at Microsoft’s global headquarters in Redmond, Washington
How Big Is Your Brave?
by Anthony Lees
Day three of E2 started with a Keynote by Angela Maiers, which I had been much looking forward to following her brief appearance earlier in the week. Within minutes of her opening comments for ‘How Big Is Your Brave?’ I knew we had been right to be excited, and that no brief illness in the interim period would soften her ambition to make herself heard. Angela started the keynote by asking for examples of bravery during the event by the delegates, and listened to many from the audience, selected by a Twitter-born list, which included my name. This gave me an exciting but still daunting opportunity to show my own bravery!
Following a timely revision of the inspiring keynote of the previous day, by Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Angela then went on to explain as educators that to inspire, we should not only understand what brave is, but also what brave is not. She threw open to the floor: What does brave mean to you? Numerous positive messages followed this; Standing up for your convictions; Risking failure; Letting your hardships develop you, not define you; Believing in your own genius.
These messages defined the session, and led us to her inevitable and defining conclusion: There is nothing comfortable about courage. Referencing Seth Godin, Angela explained that as human beings we have a need to feel ready. Our need to feel in control prevents us striving beyond the norm, and therefore prevents us achieving.
In concluding this she made a point that will stay with me: The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, it is being comfortable. We want predictability, we want to know what will happen. We are genetically risk-averse. It takes effort to decide to be uncomfortable.
Maiers’ next key point built on this truth, that you should ‘own your bravery’. She quoted:
“Most of us want to see bravery in others but not in ourselves.” – Ziauddin Yousafzai
Over the next half hour Angela continued to define and build this ideal around the idea that as educators we are highly at risk of not nurturing ourselves and our own bravery. She explained that in understanding that as educators we matter, and that knowing this should not be an ego thing, but that it is essential to our essence.
Her continuing points radiated from a key message about understanding your genius (and later the inspiring story of her Genius Hour project) and about revealing and using your superpower. She implored the MIEE audience to understand their deep sense of responsibility in revealing and nurturing this in our young people. In her words:
“These are the citizens we need; those that reveal their superpower to help others, by helping them reveal it in themselves. By six years old we have trained children to hide their genius and want not to be seen.”
Angela’s final messages of the morning led towards the inspiring call to action that she modelled through her choose2matter work in schools (#choose2matter). She argued that we need to develop children who have this mind-set in order to make real and immediate change to our world, and that to do this we should “BE That. Now and every day after.” This is the key point that can be seen to have inspired her Genius Hour work, and though (as she explained):
“As adults we teach children to moderate their ideas down to small goals, not dream big and strive for global changes,” we must help pupils to work out “What breaks your heart about the world? Act on that!”
In closing she again echoed the earlier words of Ziauddin Yousafzai:
“If you are not being fearful you are not challenging and building yourself. You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.”
It is a message not lost among a morning of equally powerful messages, neither to myself or (by the ovation which followed) to the other three hundred MIEEs who wished to demonstrate their appreciation of her words and the strength of their support for her message. Fellow UK MIEE Marie Renton summed up the experience for all of us; “A great motivational speech by Angela Maiers, on stepping out of our comfort zones and being brave.”