A few weeks ago, we had the honor of hosting entrepreneur and social media expert, Paddy Honan, from Ireland, who had been invited to visit Townshend and spend time in discourse with our students. Paddy was so kind to offer this reflection of his time at Townshend:
When I met Vivek Williams, Director of Townshend International School at an EBBF conference, I was delighted to be invited to the school by him, to talk about the power of purposeful social media. Just to be in a diverse environment, such as a school which has educated students from 99 countries, always makes me happy. But there is something even more special about engaging with, and empowering youth, as it is such an important phase in a person’s life and it is an honour to be entrusted with impacting that development. The teenage years are a special, if not critical stage for most of us. As the second most formative phase of our lives, the impact of the influences and the result of the decisions made during this time can fuel or limit the development of the individual incredibly. While the transition through our infant years may have a greater impact, the key difference with teenage years, is that to some degree the individuals themselves have a say in the process and ultimately have some choices to make. For this reason I am always keen to contribute to the empowerment of youth in any way that I can. As for Townshend, to say that I was made to feel at home from the second I arrived, would be an understatement. The warmth of the welcome was only matched by the toasty dorm radiators in snowy Hluboká nad Vltavou. Every day brought new friends and deeper friendships. So when it came to the classes, it just felt so relaxed and positive. With students that are engaged and so well behaved, we just stayed on purpose so easily. I intended to give a demonstration of a social media app with a social mission, that I am developing and to talk about finding a balance for the use of social media, all of which, I did. The funny thing though, is that this is not your average school. Townsend is a special place. So pretty soon we were taking a deep dive into what drives us to distraction and how to move beyond it. So in the middle of the week we did a session called ‘is this real life?’ which focused on what really matters in life and how the pursuit of trivial fantasies can take over our lives and waste our time if we don’t make clear choices.
In this talk on the dynamics of transformation, we explored the concept of breaking outside of one’s comfort zone. So I shared the fabulous quote from Khalil Gibran, ‘your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding’. The essential message was that we humans seek a sense of aliveness but as we often want to stay within our comfort zone, we turn to short term pleasures or distractions for a thrill. Our real challenge is to break out of our comfort zone to a more fulfilling life of service and growth. It was sort of preaching to the choir as there is such a spirit of servitude in the school. Any student who wants to get set up with an attitude that leads to a fulfilling life, they have found the right school here. So after it all, I was humbled by the love and warmth from everyone in the school and the general vibe of the place. From our trip to Krumlov which turned into a cafe tour, to being offered a Maori naming ceremony in New Zealand, to onion flavoured ice cream, it was such a beautiful and fun week. I would like to name so many people but I am afraid to leave anyone out. You are all in my heart. I do have to thank Vivek for asking me to come out and for the hospitality and also the Brogans for becoming my Irish fam during my stay. As I sat in the airport after the busy week, having a coffee and reading the comments on the journal that the students presented to me, tears of joy and love streamed down. This was a moment of beauty that will stay with me forever. So thank you Townshend. Hope to see you soon. ‘Love comes unseen, we only see it go’ - Henry Austin Dobbs.