01 November 2021 Share
The event write-up
Every term, the SLA are delighted to host an event in which our President, Richard Gerver, talks to a special guest about their values, experiences and how they relate to the world of school libraries. Earlier this month, we were thrilled to welcome professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Karthik Krishnan, who joined us from across the pond to speak passionately about lifelong learning, transformative leadership and societal impact.
Karthik begins by recalling his personal, transformative journey of travelling to America from the south of India to work on the emergence of the internet. A move fuelled by his desire to seek new and exciting experiences, it is this inherent curiosity that he now cites as a major navigating factor of his life. Karthik shares how actively seeking new experiences and pushing himself out of his comfort zone is how he’s been able to make such a positive impact in the many roles he’s occupied. Part of this meant being adaptable and moving with the times to provide the best experiences for people which, he says, is something that applies to teaching too.
Karthik speaks highly of educators and the way in which they consistently take great pride and happiness in the success of others. But he also cautions how it’s important to remember that the best teachers are not the ones who only teach you ‘stuff’, but the ones that help you navigate life. For many and, as we know, particularly in the case of school library staff, this includes being a person for children to have safe conversations with and with whom they feel secure in the knowledge that they have their best interests at heart. However, as Karthik rightly points out, the pain of overstretched school staff is detrimental to this effort. How can we expect educators to inspire others, when they’re running on empty themselves? Alongside citing the need for education to be adaptable as the world continues to evolve, Karthik also stresses the importance of not expecting educators to become adaptable on their own. Learning doesn’t work in isolation, and instead we must help school staff create an effective platform for growth. Otherwise, as Richard notes, we risk tying children to the certainties of the past rather than preparing them for the future.
Karthik goes on to talk about the transformative power of learning and how it can happen for anyone, anywhere - be it inside or outside the classroom. He notes the important distinction between education and learning, pointing out that learning transcends the limits of formal education - and this is where the magic is! This is because learning is, at its core, driven by the freedom of curiosity, and so we must be careful to not kill curiosity within the structure of the school system. Again, going back to adaptability within education, Karthik encourages school staff to reset the system. After all, we can’t give children the answers to everything, and so it’s more valuable that we provide a growth mindset for learning. This will allow us to help children apply their learning in different contexts, contributing to them becoming more adaptable and, ultimately, better equipped for the life awaiting them. We shouldn’t be afraid to change our mindset and embrace change. As Kathik reminds us, it’s not about how hard you fall, but how quickly you get up!
Richard then highlights how Karthik’s extensive portfolio shows him constantly moving from one challenge to another, which leads to the discussion of how learning is a lifelong route rather than a finite journey. As Karthik puts it, education should be viewed as the framework on how to approach life rather than something that comes to an end after your school years are over. He speaks of education being the shortest bridge between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ but, whilst it’s an incredibly valuable asset in terms of helping you to get a seat at the table, the ones who succeed are the ones who can apply their learning in different contexts.
Karthik views education as an opportunity to ask curious questions in order for us to keep developing. This is where school library staff have a key role to play, as their power lies largely in their ability to connect children with further opportunities. They bring education to life in a way that helps it transcend beyond the classroom, by opening up young people’s worlds to other things they’re interested in. Karthik speaks about the immense value to be found in having access to someone who can provide curated answers for inquisitive minds, and who are always genuinely happy to help you on your learning journey.
As the evening draws to a close, Richard and Karthik reflect on the fact that whilst education is still as important as it ever was, there remains a need for so much more than that if we are to successfully have a positive impact. Being exposed to new things is crucial to learning, and it’s through broadening our horizons that we will continue to embark on exciting journeys that keep us learning and developing. And as for the role of school libraries in this journey? As Karthik says, “When I walk into a library, I have a licence to explore.” It’s through being a place that keeps the flame of curiosity burning that puts school libraries firmly at the heart of the learning journey.
All our ‘in conversation’ events with Richard Gerver are FREE to members! Make sure you join us for the next event on 8th December at 5.30pm, where Richard will be talking to Gogglebox star and director of Siddiqui Education, Baasit Siddiqui. Book your place here.
If you’d like to watch the full recording of Richard and Karthik’s conversation, it’s available to members here - but make sure you’re logged in!