The Lincoln Center: 5 Great TED Talks to Inspire and Encourage Teachers–Caring For and About Students

A Black man in a shirt and tie sitting at his desk looking at some papers
Image via The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth.

If you’re a teacher who’s looking for a little motivation between lesson plans and grading papers, here’s a curated list of 5 fantastic TED Talks to help inspire and encourage you. Some may remind you of why you entered the profession, while others might prompt new ways of thinking about your work, and its impact of it. Enjoy!

  1. Rita Pierson: Every Kid Needs a Champion

Rita Pierson’s authenticity is a wake-up call to help students feel seen, cared about, and welcome – so they can be free to learn. A 40-year teaching veteran, she challenged a colleague who said “They don’t pay me to like the kids,” by saying: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” This is a call to believe in and genuinely connect with your students on a real and personal level.

For the last 24 years, Azul Terronez has been asking students, “What makes a good teacher great?” After asking thousands of students all over the world, he shares trends and patterns in the responses. Azul has coached teachers and schools in Spain, Chile, Canada, India, USA and China. He is currently a teacher coach at Shanghai American School.

Challenging assumptions about what students need most, Dr. Jana highlights the seven types of skills that all students will need in order to succeed in the 21st century. These include: “Me” skills (related to self-control); “We” skills (social interactions and awareness/empathy for others); “Why” skills (effective exploration and stimulated curiosity); “Will” skills (drive and perseverance), “Wiggle” skills (how to recognize and channel physical and intellectual restlessness); “Wobble” skills (pivoting with change and ability to overcome/learn from failure), and “What If” Skills (imagination and innovation).

A pioneer in research on play, Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, role-play, and storytelling is more than just fun. Play has been found to be a necessary altered state of consciousness linked to creativity, social connection, resilience, and mental health. Stuart argues that children need a play-filled childhood to become happy, smart adults – and adults need a play-filled adulthood to continue to grow and thrive. Although this is not a “teacher-specific” TED talk, the implications for the classroom learning environment will be clear.

Deep learning takes courage. In a world where students are tempted to avoid any potential embarrassment or discomfort, this hilarious TED talk features the adventures of Jia Jiang who learned his greatest lessons by boldly facing his fears. Intentionally seeking out rejection for 100 days with a series of personal challenges, Jiang desensitized himself to the paralyzing embarrassment linked to rejection. Along the way, he discovered the power of possibilities unlocked when he simply asked for what he wanted. Like the previous TED talk, this is not teacher-specific, but it could stimulate some out-of-the-box innovative challenges to help your students summon their courage and discover new possibilities by facing their fears.

About TLC

The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth (TLC) is a social enterprise company serving the Greater Philadelphia Area. Founded in 1970 by a behavioral health hospital, TLC is an entrepreneurial nonprofit providing innovative education, coaching, and counseling services to individuals and families, as well as grant writing and management services for school districts and universities. TLC’s mission is to promote positive choices and cultivate meaningful connections through education, counseling, coaching, and consulting. To learn more, visit

About the Author

MaryJo Burchard (Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership) is co-founder and principal of Concord Solutions, a Virginia-based consultancy firm focused on helping leaders and organizations thrive while facing major disruption. Concord Solutions offers consulting, coaching, training, research, and keynote speaking surrounding trauma-informed leadership and assessing and building change readiness, trust, and belonging.

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