|J.R. Trinidad Speaking to former teachers at Campbell Hall
Yesterday, I did one of my standard manila-canned addresses for the faculty and staff of the Campbell Hall school in North Hollywood, California. It was their first day back after the holidays, and folks were both stoked with excitement though also a bit drowsy, already accustomed to a couple more hours of sleep in the morning. It went fine, seemed well received, with a little less push-back than I usually get from independent schools during the Q&A.
I had no idea yet, how special this address would be.
After a catered lunch, for which the plates were entirely too small, we were treated to a talk by J.R. Trinidad, an employ of Google and former student of Campbell Hall. J.R. had been recruited to the school, years ago, thanks to an endowment fund, and an elementary school teacher who enthusiastically pointed to the boy, when school officials came in looking for students who needed more academic challenge that what the public schools could offer. J.R.’s family immigrated from the Philippines when he was four, fleeing political unrest there. It is a testament to the prints that he left on the school, that they were able to put together a video of his years at CH as introduction. A truly exceptional young man.
He had planned to be there during the morning so that he could see my presentation and dove-tail in, but it seems that there was a problem with Google in Japan, and he’d been teleconferencing for most of the last 24 hours, and it was continuing into the morning. Right after lunch, I came back to the meeting hall to start processing the Knitter chat from my presentation, and he was there, behind the podium, practicing his speech, reading from notes. I thought, “Oh Know! This kid has no idea what he’s in for.”
I introduced myself during a lull, and completely forgot my plans to interview him for Connect Learning. He was obviously too nervous to do anything but pace. I know the feeling well. Once folks got back in, and were brought to order by the headmaster, J.R. lit in and had us all absolutely enthralled from the very beginning.
He started with his experience at Campbell Hall, listing some of his firsts:
- “It was the first time I ever wore a uniform, and as a result of that, the first time I got mugged.” Uproar of laughter.
- “I remember when I wrote my first code — and it was wonderful…”
- “I remember the first time I witnessed something through somebody else’s eyes.”
Lots of insightful observations.
Then he started talking about his work at Google, which seemed a lot more like play. For instance, he starts the day with Mandarin lessons.
J.R. has a special interest in YouTube, sharing a number of stories that were informative to the audience about YouTube culture and also inspiring. He recently had a meeting, expressing his interest in using his 20% personal interest time working on their interface, and they were so impressed with his vision that they offered him the task. However, it would take more than 20% of his time, and take him away from his real passion, search.
J.R. shared a lot of statistics about mobile phone use, especially in Asia, including the number of best-selling books in Japan that are written on a cell phone. He plans to move to Singapore soon, because he is so excited about what’s happen in Asia, and “Singapore is the Switzerland of Asia,” as he said to me.
Eileen Powers, who arranged both of the presentations came up afterward complimenting J.R. on the fact that without having seen my morning presentation, he happened to validate everything that I said. I was impressed that he also managed to validate the more traditional aspect of education that he received there ten years ago, explaining to me that we need to be finding and focusing on the fundamentals of what and how we learn. I couldn’t agree more.
I was also impressed by the situation itself. It is often that a teacher runs into a former student on the street, who turns and says, “Mr. Jones, I don’t think I ever told you how much I appreciated being in your class.” It is far more rare to enjoy a formal presentation from a talented former student who is successfully participating in a future that was entirely unpredictable when we taught him as a teenager.
It’s something that schools should look at instituting on a yearly basis.