I gave my first public presentation over fifteen years ago when I
was 21 years old and it was absolutely terrible: a 45-minute James Joyce styled
rant about the failures of traditional education, the marginalization of people
with differences, and the social construction of normalcy delivered to…first
When this was over, I saw a sea of bored faces and promptly headed to the exit. But before I could leave, a six-year-old boy came up to me. He thanked for me coming and told me that he to had a hard time in school and didn't feel so stupid anymore and than he gave me a hug. I realized in that moment the power telling my story and sharing my ideas with passion and know it was something I would do for the rest of my life.
I've come along way since that first presentation to the kindergarten class. I've been a professional public speaker for over 15 years and have spoken in 49 states (Mississippi why don’t you call?) and five countries. Over the years I've spoken to kids in kindergarten, corporate execs, high school students, Ivy League professors, social workers, librarians, inmates, designers, parents, teachers, and everyone in-between about re-imaging education for the 21th century, inclusion, neurodiversty, the myth of normalcy, youth empowerment and much more.
And while much has changed since that first presentations at the fox point elementary school a few things thing haven't: I believe more than ever in the power of a good presentation to give people hope, empower them as students, parents, learners or professionals, and change their lives. I continue to speak, for better or worse, with no notes, straight the heart. And I still get a lot of hugs afterwards.
Jonathan Mooney was one of “those kids”: One of those Kids who couldn’t sit still and spent elementary school chilling out with the janitor in the hallway.
Couldn’t keep his mouth shut, so he spent middle
school on a first name basis with Shirley, the receptionist in the principal’s
office; And one of those kids who spent much of high school hiding in the
bathroom to escape reading out loud with tears streaming down his face. Growing
up he had ever label under the sun: The Bad kid, the dumb kid, the “at risk
kid”, the special ED kid. He was diagnosed with dyslexia in fourth grade,
dropped out of school for a time in sixth grade and had a plan for suicide when
he was 12 years old. He had many low expectations that surrounded him. He was
told he would be a high school drop out; he was told he would flip burgers for
a living, and he was told that people like him usually end up incarcerated.
But he beat those odds, graduating from Brown University with an honors degree in English lit. How did he do it? That question is the heart of the Jonathan personal, humorous, and research based talk: Learning Outside the Lines. In this presentation, Jonathan explores three ideas that changed his life and that all educators can adopt to support vulnerable and at risk learners. He provides concrete strategies to support teachers in building a positive learning identity when many students like him self believe they are “stupid, crazy, and lazy”; he outlines a strengths based approached the gives teacher concrete idea on how to scale students strengths and build contextualized learning pathways; and he explores the power of student teachers connections and relationships as the foundation of transformative learning environments. And through all of this, Jonathan celebrates educators as change agents and education as a powerful tool for personal and social transformation.
A biology lesson in a museum, surrounded by paintings. Classes on happiness instead of the quadratic equation. Getting an “A” for being the best student at handling failure.
In scattered pockets across the
country, often unknown and unseen, a revolution is quietly brewing. Parents and
educators are turning education on its head, radically reconceiving both its
purpose and its forms. A growing insurgent
movement of parents, educators, thinkers, entrepreneurs and activists are
dragging the education system kicking and screaming into the 21th century. And
they’re supported by findings from the learning sciences, information
technology, and a rapidly evolving understanding of human thriving, which are
challenging every aspect of our antiquated education model, from its pedagogy
to fiscal structures.
Jonathan Mooney newest talk, "Dispatches from the Front lines of the Learning Revolution", brings to life, and makes sense out of, the disruptive learning innovations that are rearing their heads everywhere. Classrooms are being “flipped” where teachers use technology to deliver content and invest their time in active learning; learning network co-ops are exploding; communities are being turned into classrooms; and college is being challenged as the sole gatekeeper to a successful adult life. Funny, real, and forward thinking, this presentations will inspire parents, teachers, not to reform schools but to re-imagine what education can be, to dare its potential, from the ground up.
Jonathan Mooney knows first hand the transformative power of after school programs.
During the school day, he was one of “those
kids”. The kid chilling out with the
janitor in the hall way or hiding in the bathroom to escape reading class. But
in his after school programs, parks and rec robotics program, YMCA soccer
league, school district run science programs, he was no longer the stupid,
crazy, lazy kid but some one how could learn and be successful. In this personal, humorous, and researched
based talk, Jonathan explores the foundational principles of transformative out
of school time experiences that change kids lives.
Far from arguing that after school programs should “align” with the school day, Jonathan celebrates the unique pedagogy and values of the after school programs and raises the provocative challenge that the traditional school day should be more like the best after school programs.
I've had the privilege of speaking with a diverse range of audiences, clients and institutional partners and look forward to working with you.
– George Stephanopoulos, ABC news
“I brought Jonathan to Louisiana to speak to every principal in the state because he has an important message, expertly delivered, that every educator should hear. Hands down he is one of the best speakers I’ve worked with!”
– Cecil J. Picard former Louisiana state superintendent of education and member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature.
“Jonathan Mooney is a rare speaker - passionate, informed and interesting. His perspective on learning differences helps parents, educators and clinicians gain a new understanding of a child or teenager’s experiences. His suggestions, strategies and viewpoint can help schools become more useful and friendly for students with learning differences. Jonathan Mooney is a great friend to kids with learning differences."
– Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D. Director, Child Mind Institute
“Jonathan Mooney is a true, one-of-a-kind gem! He has graced the BOOST Conference stage twice and is a crowd favorite every single time. He is a top notch speaker, entertaining, brilliant, and without a doubt, captures the voice of today's youth. He has the rare ability to make the audience laugh,cry, think and feel deeply, and puts it all in perspective because everyone has a Jonathan Mooney in their classroom or program.” – Tia Quinn CEO & Founder BOOST Collaborative
If you have an event, a publication, or neurodiversity need you would like to have Jonathan collaborate with you on, please don't hesitate to reach out with questions.