About one day a week I make a pointed effort to take a long walk. It usually is between 4.5-5 miles. On this walk I listen to TED talks. I love TED talks. I have used TED talks in my classroom since the beginning. The fun part is you usually can tell my mood by the TED talk I seek out. Sometimes I listen to TED Talk Radio Podcast and sometimes I just listen through the TED talk app.
Last week and the week before was all about bettering yourself and the cool things people in the world were doing. The lady who created a formula for finding her Mister Right was by far one of the best and most entertaining. I sat thinking what a smart lady and it worked…she found him!
But today was all about Education. I can tell I am slowly transitioning myself back to the classroom because the last two weeks if it said “education” I rolled my eyes and moved passed. But the ones I listened today were incredibly motivating and inspiring. I had some that made me laugh and some that made me cry. But I have to share and I mostly am sharing if you are involved with children you should watch these few.
The first I listened to was Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” I have seen this Ted Talk making the rounds and the titled peeved me off because I purposefully try and keep creativity alive and well in my classroom. In fact, so much it scares my students sometimes. They don’t know what to do with it. So when I hear that sentiment about public education I get my feathers ruffled because not all educators kill creativity. But today I guess my mood was mellow so I took a listen. And thankfully I agreed with all he had to say. The best story he had was about the choreographer who created Cats and Phantom of the Opera and her story of how she couldn’t concentrate in a regular classroom and her mom took her to doctor. They confirmed her concentration was minimal at best. They didn’t diagnose her with a disorder or give her a pill. But he left the room, turned a radio on and took mom in the hallway to see what would happen. She began to dance. He told Mom, “Take her to a dance school.” And look what she went on to do because someone recognized her needs. His talk was pretty humorous especially when he was talking about academics. I highly recommend because his argument was certainly valid that classrooms need to cater to more than just the math and language.
The next was from TED series for youth, Malcolm London, “High School Training Ground” and it was a poem written about being a high school student and I know I could hear the words of my students in his poem. The constant wondering why this is important and needing more than just a bunch of adults telling you it is important. The need for understanding why it is important.
Or there was Pearl Arrendondo, “From Gangland Daughter, to Star Teacher” who grew up a gang princess in a poor LA county school with a gang kingpin father. She was sent to the “other” side of town to go to school because her Momma wanted more. When there her teachers gave up on her because she had an attitude. She ended up getting into Pepperdine University and began to teach herself and went back to her poor school and decided to change lives. She couldn’t change them as much as she wanted so she began a school of her own. A school whose concept is not all that different than my own that focuses solely on rigor and relevance with a side of teachers who care. The bold statement they make though that I found intriguing was that for teachers they are only afforded one year contracts. This is pretty common practice I believe. But the unique part about their contracts is there is no guaranteed renewal. For most schools, as I understand it, it is common practice to continue contracts unless something changes in funding or attendance numbers. That isn’t the case for her school. You the kids don’t like you, you don’t come back. I don’t mean they are running it and all get a say. But the overall environment runs itself.
Then there was Ramsay Musallam, “3 Rules to Spark Learning” who is a Chemistry teacher who realized teaching in the traditional manner he had in the passed no longer worked after a serious health condition. He said what I often think which is to not always get on the bandwagon with all the new educational trends, but to foster the love of curiosity that students naturally have and to let their questions drive you. His talk very much agreed with the very first one I listened too.
But last but not least was my most favorite of all. This one had me in tears because this woman spoke to my soul. Linda Cliatt-Wayman’s “How to Fix a Broken School” touched me so much. This one is probably the one I will take away the most from all of them today. I don’t believe my school is broken, in fact, I think my school fixes what has been broken. That is why I teach there
and that is why I teach. I loved, loved, loved her three pillars of success.
- If you are gonna lead, then lead!
- So what, now what?
- If no one told you they love you today, I love you and I will tomorrow too.
I believe I have been living these since the first moment I stepped into the classroom. Her proclamation that the only way to be a educational leader is to hold your students and those around you to high expectations with nonnegotiables. Things you are not willing to bend on with perseverance, dedication, showing up and doing your best. She has turned around numerous schools from literally down into the ground about to be closed schools to amazing schools making lives different. You can hear 100000 speeches like this in a day and often they can’t back them up, but she did. She backed them up with success stories and data. Proof is in the pudding that kids want to succeed you just have to give them the environment to do so. It is our job to create it. Then let them thrive in it.
If all of that didn’t convince you that she has an amazing message, the passion with which she spoke and the lumps continuously in her throat are the non-verbal ques that she isn’t just talk. She is action.
Needless to say I recommend that you watch a TED talk even if it isn’t about education. They literally have topics that span any interest. It is technologies answer to self help books.