TEDxDAYTON Salon speakers ask tough questions about U.S. education


Many of you are familiar with the TEDxDayton event that happens at the Victoria Theatre each fall. This year, the same local organization that runs that event has also begun a series of smaller salon-style events focusing on single topics. The first TEDxDaytonSalon featured eight local speakers who shared ideas about education. It happened Feb. 23 at Cox Arboretum in Miami Twp. Today we share excerpts from several of those talks. To learn more, visit tedxdayton.com.

Giving students real encouragement

Donnell Wiggins, assistant vice president, University of Dayton Admissions

What if closing the opportunity gap was as simple as having the right people in the right place at the right time? We live in the richest country in the world, but our teachers barely make $40,000 annually. What if we paid our teachers a fair wage? What if we were to treat our teachers with the same respect we give to doctors and government officials?

Having examples of success who look like you can be critical to the student. Research from a recent study showed that having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade could reduce low-income black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by as much as 39 percent.

I’m here to tell you that people matter and the messages they convey are impactful. Thank God I finally had a Mrs. Woods to counteract the negative speak of (an earlier teacher). But just think of the many negative messages this nation sends to our black, brown and poor white kids today. Our education administrators and teachers serve as the gatekeepers to student success. Can and will they become the change agents needed to undo those harmful messages and challenge all students to be better?

Imagining one’s future self

Shannon Cox, associate superintentent, Montgomery County Educational Service Center

We will never solve the opportunity gap problem without the ability to see oneself in the future. Do you remember what it is like to dream … to see yourself in the future? I wanted to be the first female fighter pilot for the United States Air Force. I dreamed of soaring through the air, reaching to the future by way of F-16. While clearly this dream did not come true, it was the basis of how I worked my way through life. It led me down paths which led to opportunities I didn’t even know I had, and those led to life decisions I made. …

This missing competency of Future Self, is being able to vision yourself in the future regardless of circumstance … and without future visioning, today’s students will never be able to answer the question. A student — let’s call him Mike — must learn and then practice the five social-emotional competencies in order to push his brain into a posture that can handle a future vision of himself. But we, Mike’s people, need to change how we teach and support Mike to include helping him find his passion not just in life but about life. We have to support him marrying his interests and skills to help shape his understanding of his own opportunities.

And at various ages, Mike's interests may change, but the adults in Mike's life must continue to model practices and provide opportunities to Mike. By continually asking Mike to give us his vision of his future from a young age on,we can keep Mike engaged in his own vision. Mike should be setting goals for himself on a regular basis to keep his momentum moving forward to his future. In order for Mike to be able to change his mind about his future, he has to know he has a future … and maybe we will be lucky enough to watch Mike go from wanting to be a ninja to a mechanical engineer.

Giving inmates a second chance

Cheryl Taylor, program director, Sinclair Community College Advanced Job Training

As part of my job, I have the privilege of getting to know our students, and I’d like to share January’s story with you.

January went to prison three times due to offenses related to her addiction to heroin. The last time, she was pregnant and when she gave birth to her daughter, she was only able to spend five days with her. Her little girl was sent home to be raised by her mom and grandmother. Shortly after that, she also lost her mom and it was at this point that she realized enough is enough: three days later, she enrolled in college classes at her prison.

And last week she went to D.C. to share her story and talk about the value of prison education. January experienced trauma, incarceration, and loss — but education was the catalyst for change in her life. January has hope and opportunity because of education. And she is an example of a Returning Citizen who is prepared to meet the need in a struggling labor market.

She is trained. She is skilled. And she is transformed. … Because of correctional education, she has the opportunity to live the life she was meant to live.

So, when you encounter someone who has recently been released from prison, I encourage you to see beyond the offense and see the person. I have met some of the best people in prison who made some of the worst mistakes of their lives.

If you are an employer, give them a second chance and they just might be the best employees you’ve ever hired. … Look beyond the offense and see the person; help them live the life they were meant to live. I can promise you that you won’t regret it.

Teaching programming as a language

Steve McIntosh, student, Sinclair Community College

When you learn a new language, you usually start with the basic grammatical rules, you learn some of the most important words, and eventually you learn how to get started with actually communicating and putting our ideas into writing. … Computer programming languages are similar to natural spoken languages in structure, function, and are even processed by the brain in a similar way. Yet, in almost every state, the school system doesn’t treat them like languages.

Not accepting these languages as foreign language credits in schools extremely limits how many people have the opportunity to be exposed. I switched high schools after two years to a school where I was able to study programming in depth, but … this is a problem in schools all over the country. This lack of educational opportunities is preventing students, who may not have had any initial interest in computers, from discovering that they like programming or that their brain works in a way which makes programming easy for them.

The purpose of school is to prepare students to be successful citizens and contributing members of our society. Our world is changing and becoming much more dependent on technology. In order to prepare students to be contributing members of a technological society, we need to be giving them opportunities to be exposed to new technology.

Student success lies with parents

Jocelyn Spencer Rhynard, member, Dayton Board of Education

When we talk about urban education, we’re really talking about the larger social system that surrounds an urban district, the cycle of poverty, and the cognitive, social, and emotional barriers to educational success. We’re talking about a community like mine that suffers from being the fourth largest food desert in the country, lack quality health care, and the trauma that comes from violence and economic hardship. By teaching math and science, we’re also trying to break the cycle of poverty, and we know that without parental involvement, we’re much less likely to do so. …

We know that parent involvement, in all forms, has a positive effect on academic success, and we know that regardless of their own education levels and socio-economic status, all parents have the ability to increase their child’s academic success through being engaged in their child’s education. No matter how good the teachers are … they can’t do it without us parents.

I believe most parents deeply care about their child’s education, and are doing their best to love and provide for their children. I’ve met so many parents who are worried that they are failing because they’re not able to meet the stereotype of an engaged parent. … For those parents, I want you to know: the most effective method of parent involvement is simpler and easier than you may think. It is sitting down with your child after school or in the evenings, asking about their day, helping with homework, and being genuinely interested in your child’s education and the things they’re learning about. Parental involvement is good parenting in action, something that many parents are already capable of: talking and engaging with children, taking an active interest in what their days are like and what their areas of interest are, and modeling an attitude that school is interesting and important work.

Building skilled trades for the future

Marc Scancarello, director of materials engineering, Emerson

As it turns out, low global-warming potential refrigerant options have been discovered, but like with many things in life there is a double-edged sword. An unfortunate attribute of at least most of these new refrigerants, is that they are flammable.

The safe installation of these products in your home in the near future will be more technically complicated — they will have safety features incorporated into them so that even if there is a refrigerant leak in your house, a fire cannot occur.

This underscores why we need highly trained and educated HVACR technicians now more than ever. It’s not only because of the extra care required when installing and repairing equipment containing flammable refrigerants, but also because of the extra skill level needed for the new and more complex equipment.

A survey showed that by 2022 there will be a deficit of over 100,000 workers in this industry, and the education system isn’t set up to train enough of these technicians as quickly as we will need them.

And, by the way, HVACR technician salaries are above average for the skilled trades in general. And with this kind of future demand, salaries will likely remain high.

What should we do? Increase student awareness about the HVACR profession. Create clear pathways for students to enter the skilled trades, among other things. And there is a timing challenge — the new refridgerants will be phased in from 2021 to 2028. So it’s quite possible that the guy with the wrench may in fact be the one to save our planet.

Business should boost support to education

David Melin, regional president, PNC Bank Dayton

I believe businesses should expand the tools and education around the value of investing in high-quality early child care. In doing so, business can make meaningful differences in peoples’ lives. We can simultaneously develop the young people of tomorrow while enabling parents to contribute as productive members of the workforce. In doing so, we build our nation’s human capital two generations at a time.

As we build human capital, poverty diminishes and prosperity is sustained. As business leaders, it is our strategic and civic responsibility to plan for the future. Investing in early childhood education is a next-generation way to think about succession planning – not only for our own roles, but to sustain the very essence of a vibrant community.

Our society’s growth — and the economic dividends we can expect and need — depend on our thoughtful educational investments; it’s investing early, with solid rates of return and in choosing the right sectors. Let’s put our money on early childhood education from birth to age 5, with a special investment in our most at risk children.

I see children doing more than closing the achievement gap, I see them closing the Life gap. As I think about walking down that road one last time, I see a radically different picture. I see a community thriving and alive by investing differently in education. Their success as individuals and our future as a society depend on it. The time to invest is now.

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