By Ellie Sanchez, AmeriCorps member serving on the Summit Partners team at Winthrop Elementary School

I was first introduced to TED Talks while in college. I soon became obsessed with their videos that allowed me to hear about the amazing ideologies people from all over had to tell. I think of them as pieces of advice worth listening to, and I have found a few thought provoking and inspiring TED Talks that I believe every AmeriCorps member should watch.

Malcolm London: “High School Training Ground”

In this TED Talk, Malcolm London uses spoken word to depict the lives of many high school urban students. His poetry paints realistic pictures and the uncomfortable truth behind days of incomplete homework and low test scores. Although not all of us serve in high schools, the situations London speaks of are not foreign to elementary and middle school students. This talk is important because, as another adult involved and invested in our students’ lives, it is important to be aware of what challenges--whether they may be personal, societal, etc.--our students face outside the classroom. To serve, we must constantly seek to understand. You cannot expect your students to understand you if you do not offer that for them as well. 

Adora Svitak: "What Adults Can Learn from Kids"

Rules and structure are important for students, but sometimes rules may limit students’ creativity and freedom. Every time my partner teacher asks students to create a piece of writing, we are always pleasantly surprised to find the students surprise us by taking the assignment down a creative avenue we never thought to explore. We also recently started a “parking lot” box for students to put questions in. Anything they’re curious about learning, they can just drop it in. As a result, I have answered questions about gravity, the possibilities of human extinction, and the farm workers movement in California. Our students have amazing theories and questions, and all we have to do is provide them the space to share them. As Svitak puts it, while adults are often busy labeling everything as impossibilities, students still accept that anything is possible. Svitak is right when she says we have to lend an ear and to listen. 

Rita F. Pierson: "Every Kid Needs a Champion

I placed this TED Talk on this list because it  provided me with a necessary perspective about how to spread positivity in a classroom setting. Pierson’s words of wisdom are with me all day--from the moment the first student arrives in the morning, to the moment I say goodbye to the last student to leave the building at the end of our extended day program. She also inspired me to make my students say out loud how much they matter, to remind them they can succeed because “when you say it outloud, it starts to become a part of you.” They can and will believe in themselves, but they have to know that you believe in them too. The most important item about making connections with students is constantly showing them how much you care about them as individuals. 

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