“I heard the most amazing speaker, and I don’t know if I understood anything that she talked about.”
In late February, I traveled to Boston (cleverly disguised as Antarctica) for the NAIS Annual Conference. For me, I was afforded the opportunity to expand my professional network, discuss important topics in the world of education and independent schools, and support three of my colleagues as they delivered a presentation about Randolph’s Viewbook. It also gave me a chance to spend some time in a city I visited often during my childhood and, despite my baseball allegiance, has always held a special place in my heart.
When I returned to school the next week and people asked me about the conference, my first comments were not about the weather (average high temperature of 27 degrees Fahrenheit during the conference for those who are curious), or the food (the Cheetos Mac-N-Cheese was a memorable experience), or even the enlightening sessions I attended on student leadership development, trends in college counseling, and LGBTQA issues in independent schools. I simply told people, “I heard the most amazing speaker, and I don’t know if I understood anything that she talked about.”
That amazing speaker was Neri Oxman, a self-described material ecologist (described in further detail in Jay’s latest blog post) whose curiosity and passion for discovery immediately struck a chord with me. As I tried to explain who she was and what she did, which I did repeatedly with anyone I ate lunch with over the next three weeks, I would talk about the running outfit that she designed that creates sugar for the person lucky enough to be wearing it, or her thoughts on using shrimp shells as a completely biodegradable plastic alternative. My understanding of the science involved in some of Dr. Oxman’s speech was, at times, fairly basic, but I was fascinated nonetheless, as were the other 5,000 educators in the audience.
She is a risk-taker, and she can show all of us the potential of our students to change the way the world works.
We often recognize and celebrate students who move seamlessly between disciplines, who can go from explaining genetics to discussing Dante to performing a masterful concerto and who do so with, what seems at times to be, the greatest of ease. What is rare, and what Dr. Oxman provides us as educators, is the chance to see someone who blends the disciplines and blurs the lines to create something unique. She demonstrates the importance of asking thoughtful questions and bringing one’s unique perspective to problem-solving. She is a risk-taker, and she can show all of us the potential of our students to change the way the world works.
We are very fortunate to have Neri Oxman join us as part of Randolph's inservice week, on the evening of August 6th. Regardless of the grade or discipline in which our faculty teach, each of us here can gain from spending some time with Dr. Oxman. We have asked our faculty to consider the ways in which Oxman's ideas and messages relate to the work that they do in their classrooms. We encourage students, from 7th grade and up, to attend. And we hope that parents and members of the local community will join us as well.
The event is free, but we are asking people to register in order to have an accurate count for seating and the subsequent reception. Registration and more information can be found here.