Dave Eggers’ 2000 memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and named Best Book of the Year by Time magazine that same year. This might be enough of an achievement for any writer But Eggers is a writer on a mission. His books include the 2005 Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers (co-authored with Daniel Moulthrop and Nínive Clements Calegari).
In 2008 Eggers won a TED prize giving him the opportunity to make any wish with the TED community and $100,000 to back it up. He based his wishon the experience of creating a neighborhood tutoring program in San Francisco, the city he now calls home. His TED prize wish is for more people to follow him into getting involved in local schools. Utne Reader named him one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World” and his interest in education has led him to become one of the most well-regarded voices in education volunteerism.
One of the many reasons he is able to make a difference with students is his respect for educators. Of inviting volunteers to work in the public schools, he says, “Always let the teachers lead the way. They will tell you how to be useful.” His commitment to learning has not been overshadowed by an arrogant disregard for the work teachers currently do. On the contrary, he recognizes the challenge teachers face in teaching with greater distractions, more demands, and in many cases, an obligation to teach more than their subject material. Many teachers are in the position of being educator and parent to kids whose families must work long hours or for kids who must spend long hours at school.
Volunteer mentors have an opportunity to do something teachers may not have the time to do; acknowledge small steps and healthy choices which may go unnoticed in the hectic school world. Many kids with dreams often fade into the background. If they are neither troublemakers nor shining stars, they may not have the tools to draw the attention they need to make progress. Of these students who may lose heart, Eggers says, “Some of these kids just don’t plain know how good they are, how smart and how much they have to say. You can tell them. You can shine that light on them one human interaction at a time.” For anyone who has ever seen a kid’s eyes light up when an adult says to them, “good job”, it is a memorable reward. Go, find a school in your neighborhood, and make a difference for the future; volunteer.
To see Eggers’ TED-inspired website, go to:
To see his TED presentation, go to: