In the three years we have been developing the ARCTIC Zone, in every brainstorming session we’ve had regarding various project ideas, a night of original TED Talks has always been part of the conversation. We knew it would make the ultimate culminating project for our 8th grade students before parting ways for the next big step in their lives. It combines so much of what we are aiming to accomplish in the AZ. Building the courage to craft an original script from the heart and the confidence to deliver that script to a live audience is exactly the kind of challenge we wanted to pose our students and exactly the kind of challenge to which they have always been excited to rise.
In dreaming up an event like this, you visualize things going a certain way or you imagine specific topics being selected to discuss. What I have come to learn, however, is that what I imagine is rarely what comes to be, and what does come to be is often far better than what I ever could have imagined.
It is difficult to put into words how I felt last night watching our first group of 8th graders take the stage to deliver their very own, very personal talks. I can only guess how a parent feels when their children reach various milestones in their lives, but I wonder if it might be similar to how I felt last night. As I watched each student walk up the aisle to the stage on his/her own, I found myself holding my breath. You can only hold their hands for so long before they have to step out on their own. No talk was perfect, and yet, every talk was perfect. Every student exited backstage with a wide smile of pride and a huge breath of relief.
I was grateful to have my own parents in the audience last night, and a comment from my dad still has me beaming. He was especially impressed with a common theme that seemed to connect each of the talks – a theme of kindness. This group of 8th graders is special for so many reasons. They were our first. But there’s something more. They have an unwavering respect and acceptance for each other and for others.
To say I was proud last night would be a major understatement. I couldn’t even look at any of them afterward without feeling the urge to cry. They spoke with confidence, and they spoke with heart. It is a night I will not soon forget, as I hope is the same for them.