Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In the Media

 A sign of parental success is watching your children do greater things than you ever dreamed of. A couple of weeks ago I posted an interview with my daughter Claire about her social work and teaching of family counseling in Pokhara, Nepal.

Now it’s my son Ian Willey’s turn to take the spotlight. Dean of KIPP Washington Heights Middle School in New York City, Ian combines his passion for children’s education with artistic talent—specifically, love for words, rhyme, and rhythm. Since his own high school days in Louisville, he has been developing as a hip-hop writer and performer, mentored by our good friend John McClure, who runs Jonymac Studio out of his home in Nashville. Ian (or I.C.Will, or Mr. Willey) is assembling a new album to come out this April, and has produced his first music video.

The video features his song “Bored of Education,” performed along with others in the education and hip-hop community of New York and 66 energetic fifth and sixth graders.

Ian taught writing for many years, and as a dean he now specializes in character
Ian and his beautiful spouse Leyla, also a middle school dean
, so crucial to learning. Early development of self-discipline and focus have been found to be better ingredients for success in school than the much-touted I.Q. and other test scores. KIPP’s motto, “Work hard; be nice,” sums up what Ian and the teachers he works with model and teach: both responsibility for oneself and kindness toward others. But helping children develop such character qualities is only half the challenge. Ian uses his music to articulate to the rest of us the larger societal issues of education, poverty, opportunity, and creative potential.

I learn so much from my own kids and the bold ways they put themselves forward. When I submit to telephone radio interviews, as I did this morning, and cooperate in publicizing Inhabiting Eden at times when I had rather be alone in my study writing, I remember that the larger goal is not my own comfort, but rather, alongside Claire and Ian and so many others, giving back to a world that has given so generously to us.

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