Tracie Pile: TEDxAuckland Takeaways

Voices - 12 May 2015

A few of our participants attended TEDxAuckland, held at the Victory Convention Centre a couple of weeks ago. Tracie Pile, who teaches Te Reo at James Cook High School, reflects on the speakers' stories. 

Last weekend, I attended my very first TEDx event held at The Victory Convention Centre in Auckland. It was an all-day event with 16 speakers, topics ranging from gender stereotyping Lego, to a young ocean-diving family bringing awareness to underwater species and our environment. 

The most inspiring talk of the day for me was Dr Hong Sheng Chiong, an eye doctor at Gisborne Hospital, who has invented several eye imaging adaptors that can be used in conjunction with a mobile application, on, say, an iPhone, to diagnose and monitor eye diseases. You can imagine how much money he could make with these practical, time and cost-saving portable inventions – however, money was never his motivation. He recognised that 80% of eye diseases around the world were preventable IF they were detected and diagnosed early enough. So he has put his specs online for practically anyone and everyone to download onto a 3D printer, anywhere in the world and make those early diagnoses. All of that for the cost of printing, packaging and postage. So deeply generous and inspiring! 

Then there was Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, originally from Invercargill, now based in Washington DC and has developed a #donate software which allows people to go online and support causes by typing (hashtag) #donate and the software will recognise this and be able to identify the donor and link their donation to the cause they are supporting.  Her goal – to support the evolution of the human experience by creating a generosity based financial system. Her company is called GoodWorld. She recently had an audience with Barack Obama to talk about her software. Oh, and did I mention that she looks to be between her mid 20s and 30s. Mana wahine!

There were many more inspiring people, but none so moving for me as Billie Jordan.  Billie had a rough upbringing and not long after moving to Christchurch was caught in the 2011 earthquake.  She then moved to Waiheke Island, Auckland and had an idea to do a Flashmob with anyone who was 65 years and older. She taught herself to do hip hop dancing from Youtube and became their choreographer. She then decided that they would set a two year goal to go to the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas, which they did. She was able to share some of the wisdoms she has learnt through her journey with her ‘crew’. Have high expectations of them. At some point in their lives when they arrived at a ‘magic’ age, in society’s eyes, it turned them from a person to an old person.  People stopped having high expectations of them, and their talk turned from that of the present and future, to that of the past. They need us to have high expectations of them.

While listening to Billie, something clicked in me and I got it! Within expectation, is value and contribution – self worth. This rings so true for me in my personal and professional life. Personally, my Dad has had health issues this year and to ‘help’, I have sheltered him from a lot if not all responsibility. I need to change my approach and be aware of him as a person, not a sick older person. Awesome - I can do that!  In my professional life, as a new teacher, this was a reminder to continuously have high expectations of my students, give them alongside support, consistency and acknowledgement. Thanks Billie, you may just have saved my relationship with my Dad and reaffirmed the value of my expectations of my students.

In summary, what I got out of the day was that one person with an idea and the passion, motivation and unwavering belief to see it through can make a difference. We don’t need to wait for the “one day when I’m rich, settled, married, have the right qualifications, etc, etc”, we can choose to make a difference right now, with what we have and whatever we believe in and are passion about.  For me right now, that would be in my school, with my students.