9 TED Talks on Teaching Worth Watching + Why We Love Them

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Conceived in the mid 80’s as an annual conference, TED is now known worldwide for the amazing talks offered for online viewing. Some of the greatest minds of our time have held the floor at a TED conference or TED event at some point, sharing their personal stories and their discoveries.

When it comes to TED talks, it’s virtually impossible to find anything wrong with them – they’re free, entertaining, educational and, most of all, inspirational. I’ve lost count of the number of times that listening to a TED talk has sparked a change in me, in my attitude or has at least made me gain a new perspective on things.  

One of the greatest things about TED talks is that no matter what situation you’re in and no matter what your interests are, there’s a TED talk for you. So, for this article, we took a little dive into the TED website and selected some of the top TED talks for educators and ESL teachers.  

We have divided the talks into these categories:

  • TED Talks to rethink the way you teach – we may think what we do in the classroom is bulletproof, but, let’s face it, there’s always room for improvement. Watch these TED talks for tips on classroom management and to find new ideas to make your lessons more fun and engaging. 
  • TED Talks to motivate your students – motivation is one of the key factors when learning a new language. Learn these skills yourself and pass them on to your students to get them on their way to mastering the English language.
  • TED Talks to inspire you – we all need a little boost of inspiration from time to time. The talks we have selected will inspire you and give you the tools to become the best teacher you can be.

3 TED Talks to Rethink the Way You Teach

Sal Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education

Ever heard of flipped classroom? Sal Khan’s life took an unexpected turn when he was still working as an analyst at a hedge fund. Uploading educational videos to help his cousins with understanding a few difficult concepts made him realize the power of flipped classroom, which consists in the learner doing the studying on their own and then applying whatever they’ve learned at home in class, contrary to the classic teaching approach. Many ESL educators have adopted this method and swear by it, so check out this talk if you want to find out more about the benefits of this new type of learning approach.

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Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic

Professor Christopher Emdin conveys an incredibly compelling speech on how to deliver powerful lessons. According to him, educators have been looking in the wrong places for ways to become good communicators and highlights all that we, as teachers, can learn from the black community, thanks to its rap shows and Sunday services. You don’t think he has a point? Then watch his entrancing TED talk, the proof is right there. 

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Olympia Della Flora: Creative ways to get kids to thrive in school

Got any difficult students in your class? This talk offers a new approach on how to deal with disruptive students. Principal Olympia Della Flora explains how she has worked together with her staff to find a new way to help kids cope with life trauma and to thrive in school. She stresses the importance of teaching kids to navigate their emotions and suggests class activities that have proven to help her students concentrate and improve both their performance as well as their mental well-being.

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3 TED Talks to Motivate Your Students

Lýdia Machová: The secrets of learning a new language

Ever find your students struggle to make progress? When they do, we often blame it on a lack of motivation on their part, but sometimes the reasons are deeper than that. Polyglot Lýdia Machová shares four tips to learn a new tongue that she has identified by comparing her learning strategies with those of other fellow language learners. Perhaps you can share these “secrets” with your students right off the bat or use them to help the ones who are struggling the most, who can’t seem to stay motivated or that don’t show any visible progress.

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Ramsey Musallam: 3 rules to spark learning

If you’ve ever sat in a class with a dozen or more students slouching on their desks and looking at you uninterestedly, you’ve probably caught yourself blaming them and wondering why they won’t pay attention, but maybe it’s not entirely their fault. Ramsey Musallam shares what his life and his job as a chemistry teacher have taught him and encourages all educators to think outside the box when planning and giving their lessons.   According to him, with three simple rules that can be applied to any subject, you can spark the curiosity of your students, raise questions and create a truly engaging and motivating learning environment.

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Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve

Failure is hard to accept, no matter what you’re trying to do or achieve, and yet, failure is almost always a guarantee when trying to learn a new language, so it’s no surprise so many students feel like giving up when they don’t get the results they expected. Researcher Carol Dweck offers an entirely new perspective on assessing students’ achievements, putting the focus on their progress as opposed to mere grades or right or wrong answers. Find out how the “power of Yet” can help change your students’ mindsets and keep them motivated in their learning journey. 

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3 TED Talks to Inspire You

Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

It’s no coincidence Ken Robinson’s TED talk is one of the most viewed. In a 20-minute engaging speech, he lashes at the current school system and blames it for stifling children’s creativity.  The best selling author argues all children are born artists but their creative power is being wasted in order to fuel society’s standards, which are always prioritizing literacy over creativity. A TED talk that will not only make you laugh, but that will also inspire you and make you question our modern school system.

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Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

Teachers are no strangers to stress – having to spend countless hours lesson planning and giving classes, sometimes dealing with difficult students or sometimes even difficult parents, trying to teach and educate at the same time, it would look as though stress is just part of the job and there’s not much that we can do about it. Luckily, however, Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, believes it’s all about the way you look at hardships and talks about the benefits of making peace with stress as well as the positive effects of social contact and social support. By tricking your mind and changing the way you think of stressful situations, you can indeed change the way stress affects you, both mentally and physically.

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Taylor Mali: What teachers make

Who said poetry is dead? This poem by Taylor Mali is a real ode to teachers and educators, who are too often looked down on and judged for choosing this career. So when you feel taken for granted, underappreciated, when somebody underrates and underestimates the effort it takes to be a teacher, you can listen to this three-minute pep talk to remind yourself what makes this profession so special.

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Where to start with TED Talks

If you’ve never seen a TED Talk before then find a bit of time while eating breakfast or relaxing before bed to watch one (they’re short!).  Personally, I can rarely stop at one and often find myself deep down the TED Talk rabbit hole and multiple videos away from where I started.

Still, I always get something out of them and if you’re like me then you’ll find a few videos that really resonate with you and that you keep returning to over and over again.

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One Response

  1. Thank you! I love TEDTalks not only because of the teaching and learning speeches. Speakers raise a lot of interesting and informative topics.
    My students, I know, are watching Ted, too. And sometimes we discuss interesting talks and share our thoughts! This is a very useful way to develop listening comprehension and speaking, even when students are discussing something not specifically related to English.
    I will be sure to look at your proposed talks.

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