Wednesday, June 12, 2013

IRA Conventions Highlights Post #4: Debbie Silver and LeVar Burton

In the opening session on Sunday, we heard two speakers: Debbie Silver, author of Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8: Teaching Kids to Succeed, and LeVar Burton, star and executive producer of PBS' Reading Rainbow. (Yeah, I think he was in some other stuff too, but clearly at IRA it is his Reading Rainbow connections that we value.)

Debbie Silver's book is about the fact that kids - well, people of all ages - learn by failing. Instead of trying to protect children from any kind of negative experiences, we should be encouraging them to take risks, and yes, sometimes to fail. We need to keep raising the bar so that they can learn resiliency. School is a place to practice and to learn. Over time, we can all "fail better," making incremental progress towards mastery. Silver is a humorous presenter. She's also a songwriter, and she shared some of her music with us, too.

I was very excited about hearing LeVar Burton.  Reading Rainbow was a big favorite with my kids when they were younger.  But I'm sorry to say that it didn't take long before I started to get the impression that Burton was winging it.  He had so many potentially great stories, but didn't develop any of them.  For example, he mentioned a few of his own teachers, like Gene Roddenberry,  Fred Rogers, and Alex Haley.  Now that is a talk I'd like to hear.  But he didn't go beyond just a couple of remarks, and given how young the audience was, I'm not sure they even knew who the first and the third of those guys are.  He started to talk about what it was like to be on Star Trek, but didn't elaborate.  He talked a little bit about his mother and how she raised him to be a reader, but again didn't follow up.  He kept almost wrapping up and then not.  Burton has a wonderful stage presence, a great voice, and amazing stories to tell.  Somehow he just didn't tell those stories. 

Here's highlight post number one, here's highlights post number two, and here's highlights post number three.

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