On February 22-24, 2013, we hosted the 10th annual Bradley Seminar in San Jose, California. The event, funded by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, provides an amazing opportunity for the Caroline D. Bradley Scholars, their parents, and alumni to come together each year for a three-day conference to discuss issues of global importance and personal relevance.
The IEA community has found great personal and collective growth in sharing and learning together in an emotionally safe environment. Our most powerful moments have involved cross-generational discussions where each individual feels heard and supported. The Seminars offer a perfect forum to focus on a purposeful theme that causes us to look inward and to challenge ourselves to grow, not only intellectually, but also personally. This year, the theme was “Know Thyself.”
Those of us who work with highly able youth seem to agree that the unique social and emotional issues related to their giftedness, coupled with adolescence, cause the majority of “stressors” in these students’ lives. In an effort to assist our population in dealing with stress, we explored aspects of resiliency and identification of personality types.
Prior to the event, participants read excerpts from The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte and completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). These served as a starting point for conversation.
Knowing thyself … personality types
After a Friday evening welcome for Scholars, alumni, and parents, Saturday began with reflections and discussions on learning to deal with stress. IEA President Elizabeth Jones led the group in exercises to learn what issues or situations “pushed” individual buttons and presented key points on how to develop resiliency. This dialogue set the stage for learning and exploring personality types. Guided by IEA co-founder and president of The Davis Group Ltd., James W. Davis, we discovered our personality types and learned about the characteristics of each type. Mr. Davis emphasized that the MBTI is a starting point to use to understand your preferences and grow, not an excuse to stay stuck in your ways. Some things are easy and natural, while others require growth. MBTIs help you understand where there is room to grow.
Parents and kids alike were interested to see how they were similar and different in their personality types. In many cases, the MBTI helped shed light on familial interactions and communication barriers that have been present but not understood for years!
Learning about different personality types at the Seminar encouraged us to better understand our own temperaments as well as those of our friends and family. It helped provide a structural foundation for understanding differences and methods for seeking out, incorporating, and acknowledging the value of other viewpoints.
Exploring Silicon Valley
On Saturday afternoon, the Scholars ventured to two amazing companies: Udacity and Bloom Energy.
In the fun and inviting setting of Udacity’s offices, Scholars had lengthy discussions with our hosts about course design, the technology behind online open courseware, business models, career preparation, work environments and the future of education.
Bloom Energy was a haven for our chemistry and physics enthusiasts. We toured the facility and learned about the clean, renewable energy they are developing. Discussions ranged from how their fuel cell systems are made and operated to why a new energy source like Bloom Energy’s is necessary and how it will change the world.
Udacity and Bloom Energy encourage innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. They are driven by the unique makeup of their employees, all of whom bring different perspectives to the table. These are the types of workplaces our Scholars will need. These are the environments that will allow them to thrive, and we were thankful that the Scholars were able to see companies like these in action.
Stress response … and why we should limit it
Saturday night, Dr. Robert Sapolsky delivered a fascinating and highly entertaining talk about the stress response and how it affects our bodies. Dr. Sapolsky is The John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Stanford University. He is also a research associate at the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya. Many of us were amazed to discover the variety of ways in which the stress response – biologically designed to keep us alive in threatening situations – negatively affects our bodies over time as we experience chronic psychological stress. Relaxation techniques provided in a Sunday breakout session were in high demand after hearing Dr. Sapolsky speak!
If you want a glimpse of Dr. Sapolsky’s expertise, take a look at the videos here and here. We highly recommend these!
Let’s continue the discussions…
We are always amazed at the caliber and depth of discussion at the Seminar. Adults and students alike ponder challenging personal and global issues. These discussions among future thought leaders provide a foundation that builds confidence, tolerance, and personal growth.
Over the weekend, we reflected on our own personalities and how knowing ourselves in more robust ways can help us relate to and work better with others. We thought about and discussed the implications of our personality types as well as the impact of stress on our lives. “Somehow, you made it possible for me to meet tons of fascinating new people, learn so much about myself and how I interact with others, and gain an insight into how startups work in the Silicon Valley, all in one, short weekend,” explained one Scholar.
Reach out and support a bright young mind. Teach them to think. Help them embrace who they are and all that is possible.