You know it’s cool to be clever when even the top definition on urban dictionary describes clever as “witty, intelligent, the opposite of dumb” and the entry is made by “Sweet Jesus”. You got to believe “Sweet Jesus” – it is cool to be clever.
Or, at least, that is the name of an event organized by The University of Sheffield as part of the Widening Participation and Outreach scheme. “The Cool to be Clever Club works with Gifted and Talented children in Locality ‘C’ Primary Schools, an area which includes some of the most disadvantaged communities of Sheffield. Working in partnership with Sheffield High School and 13 Primary schools, the University of Sheffield Outreach team has identified 26 children in Year 4. These pupils will progress through the scheme right through to the end of Year 6.”
This term, on 16th of February, the day dedicated to Urban and Town Planning, we were invited to hold an Enterprise session with the children and inspire them. As usual, we got completely scared – the most difficult thing in the world is to impress children because they have high expectation and they can see right through you if you are lying or pretending to know things. But, thankfully, we got ourselves together and decided what to make our one hour presentation on. Well, it had to be catchy, it had to be short, not to mention – easy to understand and to give the main idea of how to deliver a good pitch. And then – it hit us – the question we should ask and focus on: What makes a great pitch?
We at USE really like to go green and recycle. So in order to save the energy we’d spend thinking of new ideas, we just recycled the ones discussed by the children in the previous session and made them (after presenting what makes a good pitch) use those ideas to make a short presentation in front of us. We offered, as always, certificates and sweets. Again, because we love to recycle old ideas from previous events. Or, as a proverb (can’t remember of what origin) says: don’t fix something that is not broken, don’t change something that is working. Ok, maybe I should stop this acting-clever-oh-so-much-arrogance-what-is-wrong-with-me type of speech.
“Cool to be Clever” was an amazing experience. After doing two workshops on social entrepreneurship with teens and university students, I had the chance to speak with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and, instead of inspiring them, I instead let myself be inspired by their cleverness, wit, intelligence, innocence, and brilliant ideas. Probably the most incredible bit of the outreach experience was working with younger children and understanding how much you can shape in an hour, how much you can bring to surface from what lies inside them. Children are the ones truly inspiring because they give their best, they care about what you have to say, they actually put into practice your suggestions and they have the confidence that we lose as adults.
Sometimes, children from disadvantaged backgrounds lose that confidence earlier than they should and do not achieve where their better-off peers succeed. That is why Cool to be Clever and other projects like this exist – to remind those children that they are Clever, that it is a thing to aim for and that they should regain their once-lost confidence in this. Therefore, when you give a presentation on what makes a good pitch and, afterwards, these children come in front with the energy and confidence gained from the adults in the room that nod approvingly, then you can only bow in front of their strength. These are the children that will believe in themselves and that will probably come to university, and hopefully will visit the orange-yellowy building on the side of St George’s Church as well.
Cool to be Clever was more than an enterprise session. It was a live lesson of “why we do what we do”.
*Urban dictionary tab closed. Saves draft. Drops the mic*