SoulPancake CEO Shabnam Mogharabi delivered the keynote at TCEA 2017

Feb 08 2017

TCEA 2017: SoulPancake's CEO Emphasizes Importance of Joy in K–12 Classroom

The opening session keynote was an inspirational message from Shabnam Mogharabi.

Teachers motivate their students every day.

To read. To write. To build.

To solve problems and make sense of history.

But there’s another way to help them grow, according to SoulPancake CEO Shabnam Mogharabi.

Bring them joy.

It’s like a virus. They’ll pass it on.

“People can often dismiss you as being an idealist” when you talk about joy, says Mogharabi, the opening keynote speaker at the TCEA 2017 educational technology convention in Austin, Texas. “But joy can be a real motivator. We believe people love to spread inspiration.”

Mogharabi shared stories and videos from SoulPancake, an award-winning media and entertainment company founded by actor Rainn Wilson, to highlight the power of authenticity and truthfulness in storytelling. The company produces popular videos such as Kid President and “My Last Days” (which went viral with the story of dying teenage singer-songwriter Zach Sobiech and a host of celebrities singing his song “Clouds”). SoulPancake aims to get people to connect with each other through its content.

Often, that involves putting people together in uncomfortable situations: One video required couples to stare at each other for a full four minutes before asking each other intimate questions.

Mogharabi says her staff had doubts right before the video shoot that the quiet four minutes would be dull, but they turned out to be incredibly tender and awkward — and fun to watch. “Being uncomfortable is the key to vulnerability,” which will lead to a sincere story unfolding, Mogharabi says.

But how does this translate to teaching K–12 students, many of whom might already seem fairly happy? Happiness is momentary, and joy is sparked by altruism, Mogharabi says. “This is a generation that wants to be impactful in the world. They want to be inspired.”

First, teachers should stop comparing themselves.

“We live in a hard time,” Mogharabi says. “People show you a curated version of themselves online. Don’t compare yourself or your classroom to them. Instead, allow joy to drive the decisions you make.”

Second, teachers can help students find their voices. This goes beyond teaching them reading, writing and arithmetic: Really listen to what children say about their lives. “You have a distinct responsibility to find out the next generation’s stories,” Mogharabi says. “A good story, well told, can change the world.”

And SoulPancake would love to hear those tales.

“We are so excited to hear their stories on our platforms,” Mogharabi says.

EdTech is covering TCEA 2017, including articles on breakout sessions, keynotes and the pulse on social media. Keep up to date on all of our coverage by visiting our TCEA 2017 conference page.

Jena Passut

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