In kindergarten we all sat around a big red rug taking it in turns to tell our news. Our enthusiastic teacher graciously listened as many of us repeated that we had each seen a rainbow lorikeet that morning. Despite some obvious similarities each of our stories were important.
In first class we put on a full act play of the Ramayana, the stories and characters, though vague, linger in the back of my mind. In later years there were songs with characters I can still conjure that taught me the difference between nouns, verbs and adjectives. My education at Linuwel School prized storytelling, and taught me that the distinctions we create between maths, science, English, Music and Art are completely artificial. My teachers created classes that drew out and developed particular skills and ideas, simultaneously giving weight to the rich and intriguing context in which they lived. A lesson in chemistry was incomplete without the history of the alchemists to accompany it and the artistic guidance to teach us to interpret it ourselves.
To this day and to my teachers’ credit I continue to take this approach to my work. For the past five years I’ve lived in New York, making a career out of telling stories that cross disciplines and traditional boundaries. I’ve worked with companies trying to improve the lives of the workers in their supply chains and Non-Governmental Organizations seeking to change the way companies think about their environmental footprint. I’ve worked with managers to get celebrities to talk to their millions of Facebook followers about the impacts of climate change and what they can do about it. When people ask me to describe my education I ask them if they can remember how they were taught trigonometry. Most say from a textbook. I was taken outside and taught how to measure the height of a tree using its angle to the ground.