Hijacking your child’s education: Jane Andraka at TEDxQUT

Hijacking your child’s education: Jane Andraka at TEDxQUT

September 10, 2019 21 By Ronny Jaskolski


Translator: Juliana Beltran Torres
Reviewer: Denise RQ Oh my gosh! I’m here. It’s so weird to be on stage
because I’m usually back there with you watching the speakers
and clapping for Jack. And when Jack got the invitation
to come and speak in Australia, we were like, “Yeah Australia! We’ll meet
some cool people with cool accents, we’re going to see koalas and kangaroos!” Oh my gosh. And then I got an email that said, “Jane, we would like you
to give a TEDx Talk.” And I was like, “Oh my god! Me?
What do I have to talk about?” And I just couldn’t figure it out,
but then I thought about it, and it came to me, and here it is. I’m a mom. I’m a proud mom.
I’ve got two great kids. And they’ve done some amazing things. But then again, what mom doesn’t think
their kids have done some amazing things? But like any mom, I get really worried
about my kids’s future. Especially now, my oldest son
is off to university. And I mean, looking back,
I have bought him some useless things. I bought him rugs, and curtains,
and matching bed spreads, and pillows, and definitely more school supplies
than any kid will need in a year. I mean, seriously, how many kids need
720 pencils to go to school for a year? But then again, it’s a mom’s job
to worry, it’s what we do. I take that job seriously, I worry 24/7. I worry about my kids grades or whether he is studying
for his SAT standardized tests. And you know what? I even worry about
whether they’re eating enough vegetables. Typical mom stuff. It’s been 18 years since I’ve been
on this journey as a mom, and I’ve enjoyed most of it. However, at the beginning, I knew nothing
and I was so freaked out about everything. One day I was driving home
from work listening to the radio, and I remember listening
to all these terrible stories: globalization, the disappearance
of the middle class, jobs vanishing never to return. It was pretty dismal stuff. After dinner I would open the newspaper, and I was struck by these terrible
pronouncements about education. I mean, is it supposed to be
“a tool to create tomorrow’s citizens”? Or maybe a “stepping stone
to higher socioeconomic status”? Or maybe we should have
even more standardized testing to prove that teachers are teaching
what the government requires. And it struck me then
that my kids could be grandparents before any of these educational theories
trickled down to their schools and I couldn’t push “stop” on world events while I waited for the educational system
and the government to decide what’s best for kids. And I couldn’t wait and hope
that my kids would hit the lottery and get paired up with a teacher
every year for 12 years. So right then I decided
to stop depending on them, and what “they” should or shouldn’t do,
and hijack my kid’s education. I mean, schools are great, they’re great for training kids
to sit still and obey orders, to memorize facts and figures
and to become employees. They are great to teach to a test that it really has nothing
to do with the real world unless you plan on making a career
of writing standardized tests. But what about creativity and innovation? What if success in this new world means not sending out your resume
but creating a new path for yourself? We parents have to stop being lazy and waiting for them to prepare
our kids for the real world and start thinking and preparing
our kids ourselves. Let the schools train them,
while we do our job to mentor them, to mentor them
so that they can problem solve, so that they can troubleshoot, and learn perseverance, and what failure
means and how to overcome it, and to engage in creative thinking. And to mentor kids so that, eventually,
they can direct their own learning, that they can combine information from new
and different fields together, creatively, and then persuade and communicate. Think about it, what’s your goal? I talk to a lot of parents
in the U.S., and they say, “You know, my goal is
for my child to be happy.” And I go, “Oh”, and then,
I talk to their kids, I go “So kids, like what’s up with that?
What’s happiness to you?” And they say, “To me, perfect happiness
would be sitting in front of the TV, playing my video games,
not doing my school work, stuffing myself with junk food.” And I think to myself, “That doesn’t seem like a great recipe
for long term happiness.” There’s many paths to a successful life. But to find meaningful and challenging
work that could support you, that might be a good starting goal. And to succeed then
first you just need to show up. And if you want to do even better
then you show up with a goal. And if you really want to achieve, you show up with a goal
and a plan to implement it, and that’s your job, parents! Your job is to uncover your child’s
talents and help them develop them, and help them realize their potential. An acorn is an oak in miniature, but with the right environment, it can grow into
the mighty tree it’s meant to be. So now you’ve learned to think,
and you have a goal. Now it’s time to put them
to use! Pay attention! You can’t just let a kid go
through 18 years of school, and then ask them, “Well, what are
your interests, what are you good at?” They are going to say, “I don’t know.”
I mean, help them out! Parents need to teach their kids
like a lioness teaches their cubs. And not that Disney version. No kindly animal is going to stop by
and teach your kids or the cubs how to survive in the real world. It’s a tough, competitive world
that’s moving fast, and you, like the lioness, need to
prepare your kids for real life. So, you need to emphasize
how to hunt for answers. If you don’t know how,
take some personal responsibility, go to the library, ask the librarian, “How do I search
for information on the Internet?” And then just as a lioness
doesn’t wander off and expect their cub to take down the first wild beast
that comes across, don’t expect your high school graduate
to write a research paper if you never spent the time
to teach them how to hunt. It’s a learned skill, your kids
can’t do it correctly the first time. Be like the lioness,
do it in small steps. Just like the lioness will bring
a dead piece of prey there, and then a half dead piece of prey and then, finally,
teach their kids to kill! (Laughter) You have to teach confidence
in small steps, and always ask more questions. And have answers to let them come
to the realization themselves. Let your child teach you
and explain their process to you. And this is the important step. At first, you might have to hunt
for opportunities for your child. There’s so much free information online and your job is to hunt
these opportunities for your kid, and then present them
with these opportunities. And that is your goal. To search for a point where their talent
and their interest coincide. And it took us forever to find
that point. It’s not easy. I mean, at first we started with music. We did piano, and cello, and violin,
and flute, and clarinet, and saxophone, and they sucked at it all. (Laughter) And then I go, “OK, maybe
they’re really into sports.” So we tried football, and soccer,
and lacrosse, and basketball, and baseball, and swimming, no. OK, so maybe they’re meant for the arts so they can do like plays
or write short stories or poems, no. Alright, dance classes! No. So we actively hunted for opportunities
to match the kids interests so they could develop
whatever talent they had. And we praised the effort,
we praised the process and not the result. We said, “If it was easy,
everybody would be doing it.” We noted, frustration’s part
of that learning process for so. But if you love your subject, then you’re willing to push past
that failure and frustration and get that wonderful feeling of pride in your own hard work,
in your own achievements. So, even if it’s quicker and easier,
we didn’t provide answers, we guided them by asking them questions
that they could answer on their own and that’s why, eventually, when the topics got too hard for me
to answer questions about, I could still help them
through their tough patches by having them explain
their thought processes and then they could answer
their own questions a lot of the time. And another great thing
is have an idea book. Oh my gosh, this is great! Kids, they are so creative, they have
so many ideas buzzing around their heads. so you just have them write them
all down, nothing’s too crazy, you’ve got an outline for a play,
you got a cool science experiment, you write that down,
and it might seem really off-the-wall, it might be way too advanced
for their age, who knows; but write it all down,
sketch it, draw it, and go back to it regularly, because as they gain
knowledge and experience, they can make those ideas real. And remember that no matter
what their passion is, whether it’s writing,
or the sciences, or athletics, there’s no instant success. Success comes
from those small intermediate steps like building
a Lego construction of some sort. For instance, my older son noticed,
when we were kayaking, that the rivers were bright orange, and he goes, “Why is that?
Why is this river orange?” I go, “Well, I don’t know, figure it out.” And that led to his first project which was “Can limestone aggregate
remediate acid mine drainage?” He loved the history, the environmental and political issues
behind it, and the chemistry. And then he was going to go
to the science fair, and I caught him
just weeping, and he goes, “Mom, it’s just rocks and water!” And I said, “Dude, it’s OK. Science
is just little increments of progression. Little successes, it’s all good. Go out there, you’re fine.” And sure enough, he entered, and he placed
in the National Middle School competition. But he was still excited;
there was still so much more to learn. So he grew his project, and he went to the
International Science and Engineering Fair and he did a “Static cell
that would mediate acid mine drainage,” and then, for his final year, a “Dynamic electrochemical remediation
of acid mine drainage,” and he won the MIT think award
and 96,000 dollars at the Intel International
Science and Engineering Fair. But that takes time and persistence, and the development of skills
to reach that result, and so we celebrated those small steps,
and the small successes, and we praised the process. Competition is valuable
because it gives real-world feedback. I mean, your mom is always going
to love whatever you do, right? But this is real world feedback, and it motivates your child
more than your mom can, to learn and progress
and to learn important lessons like how to deal with failure. Nobody died from losing.
It’s all good. It’s OK to fail. Because then you’re motivated
to improve for the next time, and you’re inspired by the other people’s
projects or performances and I also say, “One project,
many competitions. Don’t get crazy here.” So if you get a science project,
then you enter in a science fair, where you talk to a judge. Or you want to write video
about your project and its impact. Or you write an essay, and you tell
about what you’ve done with it. Or you can write a research paper
and send it in to a journal. Or you can even do a community improvement project
or patent it and start a business. Often, your kids don’t have time
to hunt for these opportunities so it’s your job to go out
and look for those lists of competitions and present it to them and say,
“Well, which one are you going to do. Now, here’s your timeline,
here’s your due date. Get busy.” So, in closing, parents
have to stop being lazy. Raising kid’s hard work
takes time and patience. And if, before you had kids,
you used to be lazy, that’s OK, but right now, it’s time to step up
to the plate to accept responsibility and to do your job. Teach your kids that problems in the world are just opportunities in disguise, and that innovation comes from discontent. Know that petty rules
stifle curiosity and creativity so have less rules
and more independent thinking. Because if you live in the box,
it’s really hard to think outside of it. So teach your kids how to hunt
and think independently. And don’t depend on “them”
to educate your child. That’s your job. So take the time to research
opportunities for your kids. Take the time to help them hunt
for the opportunities. Take the time to help your kid
discover what he’s great at. And then praise the attempt,
praise the process, and the perseverance, and the hunt. Support those failures,
and most of all, love your kids, and help them develop their potential
and become the people they’re meant to be. Thanks. (Applause)