Top 5 Recommended TED Talks for Teachers

You’ve probably heard of TED Talks before and most of you have listened to dozens and dozens of them. But for those who don’t know, TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas usually in the form of short powerful talks. Begun in 1984 at a conference, TED Talks are now available in more than 100 languages.

TED Talks can be accessed online at and as of this year, there are over 3500 TED Talks available free on the website. Since November 2012, TED Talks have been watched over one billion times worldwide.

ESGI and ThinkFives asked hundreds of teachers about their favorite TED Talks,and here are their top five.

Rita Pierson – Every Kid Needs a Champion

In this passionate and engaging talk, Pierson argues that by connecting with your students, you may help unleash their potential.

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” Rita’s TED talk is a rousing call to educators to believe in their students and connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

“No learning can take place without relationship,” is Rita’s mantra. In her talk, she discusses the importance of not just trying to force your students to “learn lessons,” but to build connections with them. 

After listening to Rita, you’ll want to run back into your classroom and hug a student.

Length: 6 minutes 0 seconds

Angela Lee Duckworth – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance 

Angela left a high-profile consulting job to take a job teaching math in New York and set out to answer the question: What was the deciding factor on whether a person would succeed? Her answer was surprising.

It wasn’t IQ. It wasn’t good looks or physical health. It wasn’t social intelligence. It was grit.

In her talk, Angela discusses the powerful effect grittiness can have, both on teachers and students. Talent does not make you gritty.  So how do you build grit?  It’s called a growth mindset.

Angela’s talk gives educators a lot to think about.

Dr. Brené Brown -Why You Should Listen

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She’s the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness and Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership.

In her talk, Brown explains why vulnerability and tenderness are important and how she avoided  being vulnerable most of her life. She shares that when she read those recommendations, she said, “A – that’s not me and B – I don’t even hang out with people like that.”

Teachers need to understand how to be tender to their students, how to encourage joy and emotion.

Length: 20 minutes 26 seconds

Christopher Edmin – Teach Teachers How to Create Magic

What do rap shows, barbershop banter and Sunday services have in common? As Christopher Emdin says, they all hold the secret magic to enthrall and teach at the same time — and it’s a skill we often don’t teach to educators. 

In his inspiring talk, Christopher argues that we need to transform how teachers are trained if our schools are going to reach and engage all students. “Magic can be taught.” You can teach it by sending people into the spaces where magic happens.

Every teacher needs to share magic and this talk will have you asking if you have captured that magic.

Length: 6 minutes 54 seconds

Stephen Ritz – A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx

“I am not a farmer,” starts Stephen in his TED Talks.  Offering a whirlwind of energy and ideas, Stephen Ritz is a teacher in New York’s tough South Bronx, where he and his kids grow lush gardens for food, greenery — and jobs. 

Building indoor edible walls in the classroom, his students became ambassadors of green walls in schools across New York. He increased attendance, he graduated students and excited students who had never been excited before.

If his talks don’t get you thinking about how you can excite your students, we’re not sure what will.

Length: 13 minutes 59 seconds

Honorable Mentions

  • Eduardo Briceño: How to Get Better at the Things You Care About
  • Tyler Dewitt: Hey Science Teachers — Make It Fun
  • Mark Rober: The Super Mario Effect
  •  Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

What Ted talk would you recommend to your colleagues?

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