My Experience at TEDxHouston: Resonate

I sang “Twinkle Twinkle Like Star.” I traded colored pencils with audience members to fill in a Color by Number illustration (I didn’t finish). I drank coffee with speaker Nilofer Merchant and admired her custom newsprint pleated skirt. These are a few snapshots of my first TEDx experience.

My Color by Number.

Overall the speakers at TEDxHouston: Resonate were in equal parts interesting, thought provoking and inspirational. But here are the three speakers that resonate with me three weeks later.

Magician and storyteller Ben Jackson dazzled and confounded us with his amazing sleights of hand woven into his story of how he became a magician. While performing these feats of wizardry Ben chatted about how he developed his skills, his travels around the globe and how his magic touches people. It was a mesmerizing 18 minute presentation.

Magician Ben Jackson – courtesy of his website.

Houston’s own Jane Weiner of Hope Stone Inc. told a chilling tale through movement and music about a ruler who foolishly banned salt from his kingdom. The result? People were ill and close to death. Weiner linked salt, an essential mineral for our bodies, with art, essential for a rich and textured life, especially for children. Now, every time I use salt on my food or in recipes,  I think of Jane’s performance and how much art nourishes my life.

Choreographer/dancer Jane Weiner. Photo: Simon Gentry

The day concluded with the electrifying words of educator Jay Berckley. I can see his simple, yet startling graphics comparing education in the United States with Finland. We spend $11,000 per student, administer a full battery of standardized tests on said students and realize the highest high-school drop-out rate among industrialized nations. Finland spends $7,000 per student, never administers a standardized test (!) and graduates its students into college or vocational school to learn a trade.  Berckley’s passion for his students made me think about my fabulous sixth grade teacher Mr. Carmine.  He was the first male teacher I had in grade school. I still remember when we hatched fuzzy baby chicks in incubators bringing science to life. Prior to that there was nothing memorable about my public school education.  I loved going to Mr. Carmine’s class every day.   Berckley’s talk made me wonder where Mr. Carmine is right now. I hope he is still in the classroom and not in an administrative capacity. Prior to Berckley’s TEDx talk I hadn’t thought about Mr. Carmine in decades.

So here are my recommendations if you decide to apply to attend a TEDx event in your city. Own your essay – fill it with your passion, insights and experiences.   When accepted, register early – room is limited at each venue. Opt for the live speaker format if you can afford it. Have fun and share your experience with others.

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