Eminent Person Study: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Macleod's BooksWith a new fall, the current incarnation of the Talons class sets out on one of the pillars of the program, encountering a person deemed Eminent in the annals of history: someone who has changed things and left the world indelibly marked with their unique gifts. The importance to gifted learners of such projects is arguably of special relevance, as much of the Betts’ Autonomous Learner Model concerns itself with developing social-emotional learning in youth prone to being isolated or singled-out in traditional educational or work settings.

“To be nothing but yourself,” ee cummings tells us, “in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” And while every learner, young or old, could benefit from finding a new path through the weeds to self-actualization, the Eminent Person Study, culminating in the tradition of Night of the Notables, is an opening salvo in Talons years that sees the program’s grade tens resolutely begin to inhabit their Role Model shoes, and set out on a life of individualized learning that won’t end.

In the years I have been blogging as a Talons teacher, the Eminent Person Study has been recorded and shared frequently here, as learners stretch themselves in aspects of research, presentation, reflection and personal growth along the way. Some of the memorable moments worth collecting for reference at the beginning of this year’s study are:

  • On Seeking Eminent People A familiar class debate about finding the ‘right’ Eminent Person, and how this process is effected by, and effects, the notion of His/Her-story.
  • To Find Your Own Way… A collection of links to grade nine speeches from a few years ago that saw the class take on the task of writing from the perspective of someone who may have known their Eminent Person from a diverse array of perspectives.
  • Eminent Person Wrap Up and Examples A grab-bag of links to speeches, learning centers, and reflections on the Night of the Notables 2009.
  • The Interviews Take Flight Part of the Eminent Person research process involves seeking out an expert on their Eminent Person, or a related field of inquiry. A few years into the process, this post offers a look at some of the tactics that began showing dividends across the class’ blogs.

The PodiumAs each culmination of the Night of the Notables expands with the diversity of the class’ individual pursuits, it is inspiring to look back at last year’s Notables reflections and wonder what visions this group might realize in the coming fall:

It’s just…yeah. There was so much stress (and caffeine) but then we had the grade 9 speeches, and the class got to spend 2 days rolling around in the puddles of everyone’s excessive amounts of talent. And then there were all the learning centres which blew my mind….and then the grade 10 speeches. THE GRADE 10 SPEECHES. THEY BLEW MY ALREADY BLOWN MIND. Every single one of them.  


I would like to thank all of the TALONS, for making this a great night, a special night. Each of your learning centers brought something special, and really is what makes this night what it is. All of your learning centers were amazing, and each was unique in its own way. It really is hard to pick out a best or a worst, because each is so different, it’d be like comparing Pineapples to Dogs. However, there was one I really thought stood out, and that was Donya’s, being right beside her learning center I had the liberty to spend a bit of time inside there. When you look from the outside you really don’t see, experience, or comprehend how it is different from everyone else’s. It is when you stepped into that you, did you really experience the atmosphere of the room, and authenticity of the demeanor. It truly was like you had opened your eyes and saw, unplugged your ears and listened.


I sat there in a sort of anticipation as Jenna got off the stage, and then before I knew it, I was up there, standing behind the podium, and grabbing the mic out of the stand. I think when you’re up there, you don’t really focus on the audience. You focus on giving your speech. I really didn’t notice the audience at all, and it felt like I was in a practice session by myself, still walking around the top floor of our school. It went by so fast. I can’t describe how it felt, because I can’t remember it. But I do remember the lights, the cheering, the yelling “VERA WONG” from one of my friends, and the “it’s VERA WANG, stupid!” from another one of my friends.


Night of the Notables left me awestruck, amazed, and inspired. I realized that all my pre-N.O.T.N. stress was well worth the great moments that came with it. For me, some of the more memorable moments of the night were the ten minutes we were all getting a pep talk from Mr. J, the five minutes we were all singing the same familiar notes of “Don’t Stop Believing”, and those three seconds of dead silence after your speech, followed by the thunderous cheers from your classmates. The energy from that night will stick with us our entire life.


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