Recently I watched two really exciting TED talks about education, so I thought I'd share them here for you all!
Every Kid Needs a Champion: Rita Pierson
This was the first TED Talk I watched for the day because a friend had told me about it a while ago and I've been meaning to check it out for months. It centers around the importance of teacher-student relationships, and the fact that students won't learn as well if that relationship is lacking. She makes the point that we never discuss the importance of human connection in education. She then goes on to talk about some examples of teachers she's seen who ignored the importance of relationships, and her own relationships with her students. Seeking to understand instead of being understood, or apologizing when you are wrong, are easy to do, but will make a significant difference in forging relationships with students. The ultimate take-home of the talk was this: Students need to feel valued, which will make them want to learn and know that they deserve the best education they can get.
That point stuck out to me a lot. Ms. Pierson has an affirmation she gave her students to say every day:
I am somebody. I was somebody when I came, I'll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful and I am strong and I deserve the education that I get here; I have things to do, people to impress, and places to go.
If you say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you. This, to me, is the most important job of an educator. By handing the students information from an expert to an empty vessel of a brain to be filled, you contribute to what Paulo Freire calls the Pedagogy of the Oppressed: The continued reinforcement of someone's status as "lower," disguised as good will and empowerment. In order to truly empower students and allow them to move up in the world and claim their success, you need to help them see that they are worthy of it. The idea that the students "[were] somebody" when they got to your class is the most important part. I hope that I can foster that kind of an environment in my classroom someday, where every student knows that no matter where they started, they are on a journey and they deserve to grow.
The Key to Success? Grit: Angela Duckworth
The second TED Talk I watched was this one by Angela Lee Duckworth, a business consultant-turned-teacher-turned-research psychologist. I picked it to stick with my theme of motivating kids and helping them see their value in the classroom (and also because it featured a female researcher, which is something I always love to support). In her talk, Ms. Duckworth discusses some surprising findings that she hypothesized about during her time as a 7th grade math teacher and investigated as a graduate student in psychology. She noticed in her classroom that IQ was a shockingly poor indicator of school achievement -- some of her smartest students were also the ones who struggled on tests and quizzes, and some of her students who didn't learn as efficiently managed to be among her top performers. The answer she discovered through research in strenuous environments was this: IQ, social intelligence, or physical ability aren't predictors of success. Grit, the drive to reach a long-term goal and ability to persevere through challenges, was the single best predictor of success across the board.
As a person who definitely falls in the category of "doesn't learn efficiently," I found this Talk both fascinating and validating. Something students face from day 1 in school is the idea that if you're learning and getting good grades and good test scores that you're succeeding and if you don't you're failing. But that's just not true. Students need to understand that their brains change, and the ways in which they learn change, and that failing once does not mean that they will fail forever. If students know that a step backward isn't the end of the world and that they will still be able to fight for their goals, then they will do better and they will get further on their road to success than someone who sees a "D-" and stops trying.
To tie in Ms. Pierson's Talk, teachers can encourage grit and perseverance in all of their students, and it's essential. Pierson told the story of a student in her class who got 18 questions wrong on a 20 question quiz, and she wrote "+2" at the top with a smiley face. When her student asked her why she would give a smiley face with an F, she said that he was on the road. And if they reviewed and worked a little more, he would get better, and that's something to smile about. I think that's what teaching grit is going to entail - showing students that failure isn't bad as long as you know you're on the road to success
I really look forward to the idea of using TED Talks in my classroom. They can be great to teach about particular topics, and also to use as motivational tools for students. The Talks I wrote about in this post definitely motivated me to be a better learner, and I'm sure they will have the same effect on kids in my classroom someday. Something I found on TED Ed was a lesson plan about the brain and how it stores, retrieves, and loses memories. In Ms. Duckworth's TED Talk about grit, she mentions that when students learn about the brain and how it works, they become "grittier" because they understand that the way in which they learn can change. Even though I probably won't be teaching a psychology class in my future, I think this would be a great lesson to share with students in any subject area to help them understand how their learning occurs and what they can do to make it stronger both in class and over time.
The link to the TED Ed lesson, How Memories Form and How We Lose Them can be found here!