Friday, February 29, 2008

Once Upon a School: Help Dave Eggers' TED Wish Come True

"Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth."--Helen Caldicott
In 2002, Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and What is the What, co-founded a writing and tutoring center, 826 Valencia in San Francisco. Over the next six years additional 826 centers opened in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Michigan and Boston under the umbrella of 826 National.

This week Eggers is one of three recipients of the 2008 TED Prize during the TED Conference in Monterey, CA. Each winner received a prize of $100,000 and was granted, "a wish to change the world."

Yesterday the TEDBlog posted Eggers' wish:
"He asks the conference's attendees -- and anyone else who's in a position to help -- to 'find a way to directly engage with a public school in your area' and then share the story of their involvement on the OnceUponASchool website, hoping in their inspirational effect to start a virtuous circle, 'so within a year we have 1000 examples of transformative partnerships.'"
Ethan Zuckerman of My heart's in Accra is live-blogging (incredibly well!) from the TED Conference. In his post, Dave Eggers' Wants You to Go to School, he captures Dave's story of how the idea for 826 Valencia started (emphasis added):
"Wringing his hands, he talks about writing his first novel, living in Brooklyn. He wrote from midnight to 5am every day, and he and his writer friends 'had a lot of scheduling flexibility.' Many of his friends were teachers, and they talked a great deal about their struggles. Teachers were struggling to keep students reading and writing at grade level.

Many of these kids don’t speak English in the home. Some have learning disabilities. They desperately need personal attention, but teachers might see 150 to 200 students a day - how do you give each student one on one attention? Eggers saw a supply and demand - kids in need of attention, and writers with flexibility and a love of the written word."

You can join the Once Upon a School initiative by:
1. Finding an idea. Having trouble thinking of something? Peruse their of list ideas.
2. Being inspired. Read through stories by people who have already started a project.
3. Telling your story. Inspire others with your project's story.
You can also support the Once Upon a School project directly with their list of needs.

Follow more live-blogging coverage of the rest of the TED Conference on Bruno Giussani's blog, LunchoverIP and Ethan Zuckerman's My Heart's in Accra, and through posts and Twitter "tweets" from this list of who is blogging from the TED Conference.

Image Credit: Public Art by Greg Dunham.


  1. Anonymous1:13 AM

    Teachers really do have a strong effect on how this world is going to turn out. After all, it can sometimes take only one teacher or professor to influence a person or a class to move in a specific direction. I remember having a very good teacher way back when I was still in elementary school. I have reason to believe that most of how I view life and others is part of her influence.

  2. It is shame we don't compensate one of our most valuable resources properly.

  3. Times are changing, Britt! With any luck teachers will see their worth compensated at least a little more fairly during the next administration. We can only hope. This post and the program it highlights are so encouraging. If you haven't visited this blog you might find it encouraging, too. It's a gem, and so is the young lady who not only blogs here about making a difference but does her part on a daily basis. K.

  4. Thanks for the link. It looks like a great blog and I've added it to my Bloglines.


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