TED Talks are awesome. Maybe it’s the variety of topics they cover, the perfectly timed length, the simple setting, or maybe all of these; but either way, I think we can all agree that TED Talks are awesome.

Being on a TED stage is incredible as well. Trust me, I’ve been on one. Taking the stage back in 2009 made me feel like I was a teacher again, and I loved teaching.

But this post is not about my teaching career, nor about my TED Talk experience. It’s about TED Talks I’ve watched over time that struck a chord with me and my passion for education.

Top 7 TED Talks every teacher should see

The speakers are either teachers themselves, with tons of hands-on teaching experience, or are experts in their fields, highly relevant to education today. So here are, in no particular order, seven TED Talks for teachers and educators:

  1. Every kid needs a champion

    Rita Pierson breathes teaching through every pore. She seems to have that certain something that makes students seek learning in school like bears seek salmon. In this passionate and engaging talk, she calls for teachers to connect with students. She advocates for every teacher to be a champion for their students. Because, as she puts it: “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they can become the best that they can possibly be.”

  2. Science is for everyone, kids included

    This heartwarming Talk tells the story of the youngest scientists ever published. Beau Lotto, founder of an art studio and science lab, draws attention to the fact that the work of scientists is a lot like children’s play. Science is a way of being, just like play is, and by adding rules, you create a game. That’s actually what an experiment is! Beau shares the stage with Amy O’Toole, one of the youngest published scientists in the world, who goes on to explain how she and her colleagues came up with a question no one has ever thought of before — and how they figured out the answer. Being a scientist shouldn’t be limited to an age group, as science is indeed for everyone.

  3. How to learn? From mistakes

    Diana Laufenberg has moved quite a lot across the US. In spite of that, she continued following her calling as a teacher. In her career, she witnessed firsthand all the changes that the advent of the Internet produced in the educational system, and how challenging it is to cope with and adapt to everything. Now, as she points out, “if we continue to look at education as if it’s about coming to school to get the information and not about experiential learning, empowering student voice and embracing failure, we’re missing the mark.”. All I can say is that I totally agree with her.

  4. How to raise successful kids — without overparenting

    Well, this Talk is aimed more at parents, but maybe teachers could share it in a PTA meeting, or find it inspiring if they themselves are parents. Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of “How to Raise an Adult”, talks about how being overprotective and setting too high expectations — that are actually rather narrow — of children can actually be counterintuitive in the process of raising them. She goes on to say, “when we treat grades and scores and accolades and awards as the purpose of childhood, all in furtherance of some hoped-for admission to a tiny number of colleges or entrance to a small number of careers, that’s too narrow a definition of success for our kids.”. After all, success comes in all shapes and sizes, and every child should be able to find their own.

  5. Let’s teach for mastery — not test scores

    Founder of Khan Academy, Sal Khan, talks about the absurdity of the educational system and calls for a different approach to teaching and assessing: mastery-based learning. Such a system wouldn’t allow for any achievement gap to develop. Many other aspects of our lives and our learning are based on achieving mastery before going on to an advanced level — martial arts, playing an instrument, building a house — yet at school, students are allowed to go on to the next level despite having less than 100 per cent knowledge of the previous one. The knowledge gaps can only accumulate and lead to the idea that the students, the teachers, or school inspectors are to blame, when in fact the actual process is at fault. If the focus of education can move from test scores to achievement of mastery, outcomes will be amazing.

  6. Teachers need real feedback

    Aside from the big name, Bill Gates brings big words on the TED stage. True words. Teachers need real feedback. We expect so much of our teachers every day — to prepare our kids for successful lives in the future — yet we give them so little support in their professional development. How can anyone become better at what they do if the only feedback they get is one word: “satisfactory”? One step towards achieving a system for improving the work of teachers is to identify where they need help. The big challenge after that is to put the right tools at their disposal and act on the identified issues. While giving teachers real feedback is an arduous endeavor, it’s not impossible, and it will definitely be worth it.

  7. Do schools kill creativity?

    My last recommendation is probably the most famous TED Talk, based on the number of views — over 46 million, and it comes from Sir Ken Robinson. I’m sure every teacher out there knows what Sir Ken Robinson has to say about education and how it actually punishes students for trying to be creative, instead of nurturing the best environment for them to develop their innate creativity. However, I couldn’t leave it out of my list. In fact, I would add all of Ken Robinson’s Talks and speeches on education, and even his books, but I’ll end this list with this TED Talk only, in the hope of offering enough variety of speakers and education-related subjects.

Don’t keep this list to yourself

If you’re a teacher, know a teacher, work with a teacher or love a teacher, I hope you’ll like my selection of TED Talks and that you’ll consider sharing it with others.


This post was originally published in Skole Magasinet.


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