Born to Make a Difference

TED Talks never cease to amaze me. Each one only inspires and increases my excitement and passion for teaching. “Every kid needs a champion” by Rita Pierson was no different. Pierson’s discussion focused on the importance of creating positive relationships with her students. Although many claim that their only job is to teach the students, not to be their friend, Pierson argues that “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” While this invoked laughter from the audience, her statement is very true from my experience. In my high school, there are a few teachers that students do not like, and most of the time students do worse in these classes. However, there is one teacher I had in high school (Mr. Conn) who always complimented my writing and criticized it when necessary without making me feel frustrated. I was not a confident student before his class, but Mr. Conn made me believe that I was a good writer, and it has made a huge difference in my schooling since then. Pierson believes that learning cannot occur without this positive relationship. By creating a bond with students, teachers will in turn improve students’ confidence and sense of self-worth in the process. It was obvious that Mr. Conn loved sharing his knowledge and passion with his students, and he is a major inspiration to me as a teacher.

Pierson told the audience a story of a student she had taught who earned a 2/20 on an assignment, and on his paper, she wrote “+2 with a big ‘ole smiley face.” After receiving the graded paper, the student was very confused why she put a smiley face on his paper when he got an F. She said, “You’re on a roll! You got two right! You didn’t miss them all, and when we review this, won’t you do better?” She argued that -18 sucks the life out of you, but a +2 says you’re not all bad. By showing her student that she had confidence in him, the student then had confidence in himself, and this was the main point of her argument. She wants her students to believe that they deserve the education they are getting and they “are somebody.” She acknowledges that teachers will not like every student, but the students can never know that. Every student deserves the opportunity to earn the best education possible.

She said that “every child deserves a champion,” and that statement really stuck with me. I have had some great teachers, and I have had some horrible teachers, but most fall somewhere in the middle. If every teacher was determined to be their students’ “champion,” how different our education system would be. She says that teachers are “born to make a difference,” and I think this is something that teachers too often forget. Fostering students’ confidence should bring teachers joy, and I hope that one day I will have the influence on my students like Rita Pierson and Mr. Conn have had.

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12 Comments

  1. Timmi,
    I agree with you as well as Rita. As Educators we have to have positive relationships with our students. Like she said, kids do not learn from people they do not like. Also, we have a better chance at reaching students and helping them want to learn if we build positive relationships with them, as opposed to just stuffing curriculum down their throats. I believe that teaching is an art between making relationships as well as helping the kids learn.
    Hillary

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  2. Timmi,
    I whole-heartedly agree that a student’s perception of and feelings toward a teacher can make or break the student’s experience in that classroom. I also have had some really good and really not so good teachers throughout my life, and can definitely say that I took more away from those teachers who were a “champion” and made me believe that I could succeed.
    I really love using the system of positive points rather than points that were missed. This is such a simple thing, but could completely change a student’s perception of their abilities. After reading this, I will probably try to use this system as much as possible in my future classroom!

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  3. I think that this was really nice. I would like to imagine that in our future classrooms we will be hero’s to all of our students, but I know that isn’t always realistic. I really like that her grading techniques focus on how to make her students stronger. I would be curious to see long term how that affects her students. Great choice!

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  4. This post really made me think about my schooling and why I liked the teachers I liked. I found that the ones I really liked were also some of my hardest. They not only found ways to challenge me but also asked me thought provoking questions that in the end made me a better student. They were my champions and I hope to do that for other students throughout my time as a teacher. Great choice of TED talk!

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  5. Timmi, I think that one of the most interesting things from this post was the comment about how kids do not learn from someone they do not like. We as teachers have to make sure the kids are excited about learning from us and not just showing up to go through the motions.

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  6. What a great TEDTalk! It always seems that the favorite teachers are those who invest time in getting to know each student on a personal level. Students know when they’re just a number or when the class is just about a grade. We have to care about more than the test/score. Each year my students got to pick something for me to attend with them outside of school. For some it was their birthday parties, but I also attended gymnastics class, dance recitals, a hockey game, etc. It was a wonderful experience and allowed me to see beyond the academic world and into the lives of each family. What great insight that was! Oh, and your +2 story just about made me cry. Beautiful! I hope every child has a Mr. Conn during their K-12 education! ❤

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    • I definitely agree. I learned the most from my teachers that I liked and I knew liked me. I think attending students’ activities is extremely important too. I felt so special in high school when my teachers came to my sports games.
      I also thought that the +2 part of the video was definitely the best! It is so cool how Pierson brought so much positivity into her classroom, and I’m sure it greatly benefitted her students.

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