Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Top 5 Most Motivating TED Talks of 2016 (High School English Teacher Edition)

I love TED Talks. In the quiet mornings before school, I find myself pursuing the Internet looking for a catchy title and a topic of which I wish to learn more. I am often provided with a creative idea, new perspective, or meaningful message for me to reflect upon and apply to my life in some small way. TED Talks are created by passionate, intelligent individuals who have amazing messages to share with the world. While some topics have more of a direct correlation to my life than others, these speakers are incredibly knowledgeable and have worked diligently to hone their delivery skills in hopes of empowering others. As the year comes to a close, I am attempting to identify how 2016 has shaped me, enlivened my creativity, and motivated me to continue to grow, learn, and serve others. The TED Talks that have filled the airwaves around me in my early mornings before school have played a significant role in my metacognitive musings.

From leadership to gratitude, playtime to kindness - the topics that I have learned from about from these remarkable people have challenged my thinking and reminded me what is most valuable in our lives in encouraging ways. Here's a little sample of what has been shared with me this year because of TED:

1. The Magic of Kindness: Orly Wahba at TED 2013

While this video is a few years old, I stumbled upon it looking for a message to share with my students the last day before winter break. In need a reminder of the greatest gift we can give those around us, our kindness, this ten-minute talk sparked incredible conversation with students. As we discussed the power of intentionally saying a kind word to others, many students realized how even small, unassuming acts of kindness could play a significant role in another person's life. This speech was astonishingly powerful and a wonderful reminder of how we should live our lives purposefully and remember how to treat others. Orly Wahba, a middle school teacher, founded the Life Vest Inside.

2. My Year of Saying Yes to Everything: Shonda Rhimes

Time and again, people encourage me to learn to say "no." Like many teachers, I am one of those individuals who push myself to every limit and then find myself sick every holiday break because I burnt the candle at both ends (Or I cut the candle in half and burnt it at all four ends. What can I say? I thoroughly enjoy embracing productivity.). This description accurately applies to so many of my colleagues, friends, and peers who work tirelessly to improve the lives of their students. This type of existence, while exhausting, is rewarding and is part of my personality that I hope always remains. Shonda Rhimes, the great TV creator, expresses similar sentiments in her February 2016 TED talk, that reminded me that it is okay to say "yes." It is also important that when a person says "yes," he or she commits to being in the moment. Rhimes recounts a period in her life when burnout seemed to consume her. She then shares stories of how she said yes to playing with her children (who like mine are named after authors). This speech reinforced the importance of play and allowing myself to be in the moment with my children. I could not identify with this speech more and loved the message that yes, strong women can work hard and at a thousand miles a minute and still be great mothers. Strong women can model for their daughters how to be powerful, impactful, and influential by focusing on their vocational callings. And strong women can also take the time to be silly, sing Frozen songs, and giggle for seemingly no reason with her daughters just because.

3. Want To Be Happy? Be Grateful: David Steindl Rast

Gratitude is a powerful and life-giving emotion. When one is grateful, his heart is open to seeing the world in a positive light. Gratitude is one feeling I try to instill in my speech team students. Being grateful for our peers, for the opportunities we have, and for lessons learned (even the tough ones) allow us to fully embrace the life that we are given and make the most of it. This TED Talk, delivered in such a genuine and unassuming manner, is empowering. As the speech reminds us all that each day is a gift, he challenges listeners to recognize the impact gratitude has not only on our individual happiness but also the collective happiness of the world. If we stop and take the time to appreciate what we have been given, we have so much more. This is a beautiful talk, especially for the holiday season.

4. Everyday Leadership: Drew Dudley

While this chat is a little older, I love Drew Dudley and his stories so much. From a cultural perspective, we make leadership sound like a grand idea - a position that is attained from being the best, the brightest, and the most accomplished. Dudley's talk debunks this notion and reminds viewers that leadership is embedded within every moment. He shares a story in which he changed a person's life simply by sharing a lollipop. While he personally does not remember the experience, the person who he impacted does and can share with him just how much that moment changed her life. Life is about creating lollipop moments; we are relational being meant to impact each other. This talk empowers all people to live intentionally. A complimentary video for this short TED Talk - How To Start A Movement by Derek Siver. Also short, the two combined equal the length of one typical TED Talk.  What we do and say affects others in ways that we cannot see. These two videos are empowering for young people to see and can lead to great discussion in a variety of settings (coaching and in the classroom).

5. What One Skill = An Awesome Life?: by Dr. Shimi Kang

I found the speaker in this TED Talk particularly inspiring. An accomplished doctor, working mom, and passionate learner - Dr. Shimi Kang reveals how grit, perseverance, and hard work are just the start of establishing a happy life. As the years pass by, we often experience seasons. Having children change everything. With age and experience come new perspectives and new responsibilities. Adapting to change is a difficult concept, yet it is the only real constant in our lives. This talk reinforces that idea that when we embrace change, we can successful and happily navigate all of life's obstacles with grace, joy, and love. While the focus of this piece is adaptability, it does touch on ideas from Angela Duckworth's "Grit," which is another inspiring and short talk about find passion and persevering through challenges we face.

Cover art

While several books on "How to Deliver a TED Talk" have been published, How to Deliver a TED Talk: Secrets of the World's Most Inspiring Presentations is my personal favorite on the subject. This book, by Jeremy Donovan, contains several great tips and suggests TED Talks to watch that highlight the concepts in the book. After reading through it at the end of this past summer, I was able to glean many ideas from it and enjoyed reading it overall.
Tweets by @Steph_SMac