By: Anand Balaji
Principal Zack Larsen has recently created a program called MSJ ED Talks, modeled after the popular TED Talks, to give teachers access to various speakers from a variety of different fields. The talks take place on Wednesdays before school from 8:00 to 9:00 A.M on days where there are not department meetings. There will be a trial phase of three weeks to gauge staff response to the program. The Ed Talks feature speakers from a variety of different fields ranging from business to psychology to educational administration.
Mr. Larsen explained that his intention for creating this program was to have people from different fields come and talk to teachers about their views on effective education. Specifically he said, “having people from the business world can help us understand what students can expect to face outside of high school and experts in mental health can provide advice for alleviating some of the distress that MSJ students face”.
The first Ed Talk was on Wednesday, October 23rd in the A-Wing cafeteria featuring Bill Sullivan, CEO of Agilent Technologies. Mr. Sullivan discussed what employers were looking for in today’s marketplace and stressed the importance of both innovators who could come up with creative ideas and integrators who could use new ideas to change and improve the current system. Turnout was extremely high for this meeting with over 70 staff members attending including 68 teachers, all the counselors, and all the grade level administrators. The teachers found the presentation engaging, which consisted of a 30-minute speech by Sullivan and 30 minutes of question and answer.
Teacher response to the ED Talks has been widely positive, as shown by the enthusiastic questioning and debate following Mr. Sullivan’s speech. AP US History teacher Tony Bellotti said, “I think it’s a great idea to have people come in and talk to the teaching staff. I would have liked more time to debate with the speaker; particularly on the strengths of teaching liberal arts education along with math and science.”
The next speech was given on Wednesday, October 30th by psychologist Dr. Gena Rhodes, an MSJ alumna who is well versed in the lives and development of adolescents. She provided some insight into teaching techniques that could be employed in order to maximize classroom education. The final meeting will be on February 26th led by Fremont Unified Superintendent Jim Morris who will be discussing the Anti-Bullying policy in the FUSD and his vision for education in the district.
Mr. Larsen has expressed that his long-term plan for this project is to eventually bring in speakers that students can also relate to. He noted that talks that may be enriching for teachers might not necessarily be as beneficial or engaging for students and plans to tailor a list of speakers that the student body will find interesting. If all goes well, students may eventually have the option to come to school early for an opportunity to participate in discussions with real world professionals.