The Top TED Talks for Educators

Teaching is hard! As teachers we work with young people whose bodies are changing and causing them feelings that are difficult to understand. 

Their minds are curious and questioning, including questions like, “Why is this important to learn? Will I use this? Why do I have to come to school?” Teachers are constantly juggling investing students in the learning, managing classroom behavior, creating a positive classroom culture, and teaching the content to kids with different abilities.

Education tree illustration.jpgLeading a school is hard! I thought teaching was hard and then I became a school leader. Little did I know that the challenge only multiplies with several grade levels of students and adults going through just as many changes albeit slightly different (i.e., marriage/divorce, raising children, health concerns) and asking even more questions: “Do I have to use this curriculum? Do I have to use the school-wide behavior system or can I do my own thing? Why do we have this policy or deadline?”

With all of these challenges, it is critical that we remind ourselves WHY we do this work. We must re-invest ourselves, our teachers, and our students on a regular basis. Keep coming back to the reason people signed up in the first place and you will retain their passion and dedication to the work.


There are several ways to accomplish this re-investing. Michelle Gieg, Principal & Executive Director of Democracy Prep Baton Rouge, is known for her Friday morning “Mission Moments.” Each week 1-2 staff members re-read the school’s mission articulated and are tasked with bringing artifacts that represent how the mission is living on a daily basis at the school. Teachers have shared pieces of student work, videos of student interviews (example here and here), phone calls or texts from families, or even personal ways in which they have grown since being a staff member. Every artifact acts as a reminder for both the sharer and the entire staff listening that: what we do matters, despite the challenges we are making a difference, we are taking steps toward fulfilling our mission every single day.

video and computer illustration

Pictures and videos are some of the best ways I have found to inspire and motivate a group of people. When people see something it either creates a connection or it provides a tangible idea for how they can teach or lead more effectively. Below are my top 5 TED talks for school leaders and teachers.

  1. How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard by Linda Cliatt Wayman

Linda provides her slogans and results from her time as a principal at Strawberry Mansion High School, a school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania serving low-income youth.

  • If you’re going to lead, lead.
  • So what? Now what?
  • If nobody told you they loved you today, you remember I do.

Target audience: School leaders who need a reminder to stay strong and be a fearless leader.

2. Every kid needs a champion by Rita Pierson

Rita speaks to the importance of building relationships with and connecting with students. She specifically states, “You know, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” She shares how teacher expectations and the messages they send to students impacts student learning.

Target audience: School leaders who need a reminder to stay strong and be a fearless leader.

3. What makes a good teacher great? by Azul Terronez

Azul shares the lessons he learned from over 26,000 student responses to the question: What makes a good teacher great? He shares the power of listening to students, showing students our own humanity and willingness to take risks.

Target audience: School leaders who need a reminder to stay strong and be a fearless leader.

4. Do schools kill creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson

One of the most viewed TED talks of all time. Sir Ken Robinson points out that we run education systems where mistakes are the worst thing to make. He makes a case for educating the whole child and encouraging creativity in all students.

Target audience: School leaders and teacher who want to shift their perspective around traditional teaching practices.

5. What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali

Disclaimer: This is not a TED talk, but instead a quick 3 minute slam poetry video. Taylor delivery of the many ways that teachers make a difference will leave you teary-eyed and on fire. 

Target audience: Any educator who wants to get fired up about changing the lives of our young people.

share-buttonIf you have any other TED talks, videos or tactics for re-investing ourselves, our teachers, and our students on a regular basis, share in the comments below!

meghan thompson

Meghan Thompson joined Teach For America in 2008 and began her career in education as a 9th-12th Special Education Teacher in Charlotte, NC. In 2010, she was a member of the founding team at Henderson Collegiate (a school that has ranked in the top 3.5% of all NC public schools for the past 4 years). In 2014, she was a member of the founding team at Democracy Prep Baton Rouge and throughout her time at DPBR served as a middle school ELA teacher, middle school math teacher and the Middle School Campus Director.

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