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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

What Is Your TED Talk?

By Peter DeWitt — February 13, 2014 3 min read
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We have all seen them. Ted Talks or TedX Talks. Ted Talks are the ones that invite the biggest names, like Bill Gates. TedX Talks are independent Ted Talks. The speakers, no matter if it is a Ted or TedX event, walk out onto the stage to applause from the crowd. The “Talks” happen in exotic locations like Lisbon, Cape Town, Paris, London, and San Francisco. They also happen in smaller, less exotic, towns around the world.

Many talks have inspired a call to action. They are billed as “Ideas Worth Spreading,” and that is just what they do. They are filled with passion, practical advice, and sometimes they make us uncomfortable because we don’t want to agree with the topics, because they force us to look deeper within ourselves.

I would bet everyone has something they are passionate about...especially educators. They have a story...one that brought them to where they are, and inspires them to keep moving forward. We love those stories, don’t we? Like a good Hollywood movie, some of these speakers came from humble beginnings to make a world class impact.

The talks are about past experiences, and other times they revolve around an idea. For me, my love affair with Ted Talks began when I saw Sir Ken Robinson walk on stage. It was about a year after he had given the talk. I had seen a few Ted Talks before, but never one as powerful as Sir Ken’s. After all, he captured my attention when he suggested that schools were killing creativity. He made me laugh, gave me chills, and inspired me to want to do a better job of not killing creativity. His talk came after I had spent eleven years as a teacher and several as a school leader.

If you are a frequent viewer of Ted and TedX Talks, you have also seen younger people giving inspiring speeches. Logan LaPlante’s Hackschooling Makes Me Happy comes to mind. How couldn’t it? The talk rivals all of the previous talks given around the world. But what about other students? Surely, Logan isn’t the only student who has a voice we should be listening to?

Ted For Students?

Sadly, we have students who think school is something that has been done to them. In our present system of accountability, that population of students is at risk of growing. That shouldn’t happen. No matter what is happening at the state level, we should find ways to showcase student voice. All of our students, even the quietest, have a talk within them. Perhaps helping them find it will truly prepare them to speak up against some of the issues we are facing now.

Teachers could have Ted Talks in their classroom. In the old days we use to call it public speaking. Ted Talks are different than that. Imagine the inspired voices of students talking about education, or taking control over their own learning? Imagine the ideas that our students have that they could share with peers at the classroom or school level? Imagine TedX Queensbury Elementary!

The problem is that we worry about what students might say. We want to make sure that they are appropriate. And depending on the teacher or school leader, appropriate has a variety of meanings. What if they say something about their school? What if they say they were bored in their own learning? Just like any good Ted Talk we could give students weeks to prepare. We could help guide them through their topic.

It should not sound crazy to suggest that student-led Ted Talks may give us a window into a blind spot that we have. A blind spot is the area that we didn’t know, we didn’t know. Who better to tell show us our blind spots than our very own students.

In The End

For full disclosure, I have not done a Ted Talk but I would love to. I have friends who have given one or they are preparing to do so in the future. Their topics transcend the need to speak in front of an audience. They don’t want to be the Sage on the Stage, but more along the lines of providing a smack down to the way we educate students. They want to shake things up.

I have given dozens of Ted Talks in my mind. They mostly take place at TedX Peter’s Car, with Sir Ken in the audience of course. As I said, we all have a Ted Talk within us.

What would you talk about? What would be your Ted Talk?

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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