Education Week - April 20, 2016 - (Page 19)

Q&A With StoryCorps' Dave Isay Since 2003, the nonprofit organization StoryCorps has recorded more than 65,000 conversations in small sound booths stationed across a number of cities in the United States. The conversations-most of which are archived at the Library of Congress and some of which are selected for broadcast on NPR's "Morning Edition"-are often between friends or family members and highlight the intimate moments of daily life. StoryCorps' founder is radio producer DAVE ISAY, who has won six Peabody Awards, a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, and the 2015 TED Prize for his work. In addition, Isay has published five books that draw on common themes from the recorded conversations, such as friendship, love, marriage, and motherhood. His latest collection is Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work (Penguin Press, 2016), which he co-authored with Maya Millett, a former producer at StoryCorps. The book is a series of exchanges between people talking about the work they do and why they do it. At a time when the K-12 conversation often steers toward college and career readiness, the book offers a glimpse into how people have found fulfilling work. Commentary Associate Kate Stoltzfus interviewed Isay by phone about the pursuit of rewarding work and the role that educators and others can play in helping students find their professional callings. Many of these stories illustrate the powerful role that mentors-such as parents or teachers-can play for people in finding meaningful work. Could you speak to the importance of influence in shaping what individuals want to do with their lives? Isay: There are a lot of these instances where suddenly you know. When you know, you know. It's like falling in love. It is teachers and parents and other mentors who can expose people to a wide range of areas and kinds of professions and interests. At some point, the person who is being mentored-or the student-can trip over that thing that they're meant to do. Having a rich and rewarding work life is just one of the greatest gifts that anyone can ever hope to have, so it's extremely important. All of us have this kind of quiet, still voice inside of us that knows, you know, knows what that thing is. It's just helping people listen to that voice and figure out what their greatest gifts are, what it is they care about deeply, and what it is that they're meant to do with their lives. What do you want parents, educators, and others in mentorship roles to take away from these stories, for themselves and for those they may help to influence? Isay: You often see you really have to have a fire in your belly and fight incredibly hard often to do that work and sustain yourself in that work, but once you find it, there's just nothing like it. It's really a gift. I am kind of a freak. I was really lucky that when I was 21 years old, I found my calling, and I'm grateful every day for that. There are a lot of people who work in education who are similarly lucky and found their calling to be a teacher. One of the Harvey Wang The Power of Purposeful Work Dave Isay at the original StoryCorps recording booth in Grand Central Terminal in New York. things that I found from reading these interviews, listening to the interviews-thousands and thousands and thousands-is that people who feel like they found their calling, who feel really grounded in their work and really nourished by it, are in a profession where they feel like they are helping others in some way, and that just seems to be an absolutely critical part of the equation. What about young people who don't have the resources either through family or school to help them on this path to their calling? Is there a responsibility of the community-either locally or at large- to help with guidance? How do we fix that? Isay: I think we're all striving to be our highest selves, and obviously it's easier for people who have resources to have the time and the breathing room to find their calling. I think especially for educators and people in the education business, it is core to who they are to help people find what they're meant to do with their lives. It's certainly a responsibility. There are people who may not be able to go directly into their callings for one reason or another-paying off student loans and so forth-but one of the lessons from the book is: Even if you can't do it now, keep your eye on the prize, and eventually you can get there. There are a lot of stories of people who were doing something and decided it just wasn't working for them. They took a pay cut to do that thing which they were meant to do and are much happier than in a job where they didn't feel like it was in the stars for them to be doing it. In a past interview with Krista Tippett on her public radio program "On Being," you talked about how listening is an act of love- whether that's listening to others or listening to the voices within ourselves. How can schools create an atmosphere of "listening" to help students shape their callings? " It is teachers and parents and other mentors who can expose people to a wide range of areas and kinds of professions and interests." Isay: Everyone who reads this knows how important soft skills- social and emotional learning-are. I think that what teachers do and want to do, and what drives them and brings them into schools, is giving kids the space and watering the soil so they can fall in love with learning and figure out what they love to do and what sets them on fire. It's absolutely critical in an education space. There are different sorts of [storytelling] programs like Facing History and Ourselves [a nonprofit that helps students examine racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism through curricula] or StoryCorps' program StoryCorpU, which spends a year playing StoryCorps stories [in the classroom] that speak to kids and teaches the interview method to help kids discover the power of their own voice. Curricular exercises and places in the school day where kids can reflect and figure out who they are and what they care about is absolutely critical to an education. You want to make kids want to come to school in the morning, and that means exposing them to things they love and giving them breathing room, so they can experience different things and in a meaningful way. n The interview has been edited for length and clarity. To read a longer version and to listen to the full conversation, go to EDUCATION WEEK | April 20, 2016 | | 19

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 20, 2016

Education Week - April 20, 2016
Charters Help Alums Stick With College
Cruz’s K-12 Agenda: Pro-School Choice, Anti-Common Core
National Count of Special Education Students Shows Uptick
New Online Tool Expands Access To School Climate Measurements
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Caution Urged on Measuring Social-Emotional Skills
Studies Affirm Role of Emotions In Students’ Transitions
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Needs for ‘Resourcefulness,’ Equity Probed in Maker Ed.
Digital Divide Evolves in Fla. Schools, Study Finds
Ind. Scholarship Law Aims to Entice Top Students Into Teaching
Blogs of the Week
Testing Issues Generate Heat in Legislatures
Sparks Fly as Congress Reviews ESSA Rulemaking Process
MATT GANDAL: Are We Serious About the Goal Of College and Career Readiness for All?
ADAM LAATS & HARVEY SIEGEL: Teaching Evolution Is Not About Changing Beliefs
Q&A With StoryCorps’ Dave Isay
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
CHARLOTTE DANIELSON: It’s Time to Rethink Teacher Evaluation

Education Week - April 20, 2016