10 TED Talks to inspire teachers

Written by Peter Jones

Summer is on the way out, and the school year is underway. Everything is shiny and new. But if you’ve taught before, you know it’s not long until the gleam wears off and the grind of the school year sets in.

These 10 Ted Talks from teachers who are changing the world around them will inspire you long after September has passed. Watch when you’re feeling burned out, and know that you, too, have a personal hand in molding the lives of the kids you see every day.

1. Rita F. Pierson: “Every Kid Needs a Champion”

Pierson has been a teacher for the past 40 years. Her bottom line: you have to connect with your students on a human, personal level. Her response to a colleague who said he wasn’t paid to like the kids? The kids can tell.

2. Linda Cliatt-Wayman: “How to Fix a Broken School”

Her answer to this question? “Lead fearlessly, love hard.” This principal of a once-failing North Philadelphia school has a lot to say about the complexities of running “low performing and persistently dangerous” schools and how a true love of the students is the only foundation for any change.

3. Sakena Yacoobi: “How I stopped the Taliban from shutting down my school”

The Taliban shut down every girls’ school in Afghanistan. Yacoobi set up new ones—secret schools to educate thousands of girls and boys. This inspirational talk shows just what a teacher is capable of in the face of terrifying obstacles.

4. Nadia Lopez: “Why open a school? To close a prison.”

Lopez is the founder of Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn—one of the most violent and underserved neighborhoods of New York City. Here, she talks about finding out what each child is capable of and how they can plan for a bright future.

5. Christopher Emdin: “Teach teachers how to create magic”

Emdin’s focus is making learning come alive. Whatever gets a kid interested and engaged allows you to teach—anything from rap songs to barbershop banter to church sermons. He’s also the founder of Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. with GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan.

6. Ramsey Musallam: “3 rules to spark learning”

Musallam was jarred awake after 10 years of what he calls “pseudo teaching” by surgery and the surgeon who saved his life. Here, he talks about the three principles he used to turn his classroom around.

7. Fawn Qiu: “Easy DIY projects for kid engineers”

Trying to figure out how to get kids into STEM? Qiu’s practical advice gives great ideas to teachers hoping to find low-cost, innovative ideas for projects for students of all levels to get them excited by STEM fields.

8. Reshma Saujani: “Teach girls bravery, not perfection”

Girls are often socialized to be perfect—and not just that, but to meet impossible standards of perfection. If they feel they can’t live up to these impossible ideals, they’ll often give up. Saujani wants to teach girls to respond to challenges with bravery and confidence.

9. Eduardo Briceño: “How to get better at the things you care about”

No matter how much you want to be good at something, there will always come a time when your work will stagnate, no matter how persistently you’re working. These times require a bit of extra determination. Briceño also offers up a strategy—alternating between learning and performance modes—to keep things fresh and forward moving.

10. Stephen Ritz: “A teacher growing green in the South Bronx”

A tree grows in the Bronx? Ritz focuses on urban landscaping and agricultural projects that help his students learn new skills effortlessly while improving an underserved community’s access to nutritious food. He’ll help you learn how to think outside the box. Prepare to be inspired.

About the author

Peter Jones