Every kid needs a champion | Rita Pierson

Every kid needs a champion | Rita Pierson

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast I have spent my entire life either at the schoolhouse,
on the way to the schoolhouse, or talking about what happens
in the schoolhouse. (Laughter) Both my parents were educators, my maternal grandparents were educators, and for the past 40 years,
I’ve done the same thing. And so, needless to say, over those years I’ve had a chance
to look at education reform from a lot of perspectives. Some of those reforms have been good. Some of them have been not so good. And we know why kids drop out. We know why kids don’t learn. It’s either poverty, low attendance, negative peer influences… We know why. But one of the things
that we never discuss or we rarely discuss is the value and importance
of human connection. Relationships. James Comer says
that no significant learning can occur without
a significant relationship. George Washington Carver says all learning is understanding relationships. Everyone in this room has been affected
by a teacher or an adult. For years, I have watched people teach. I have looked at the best
and I’ve looked at some of the worst. A colleague said to me one time, “They don’t pay me to like the kids. They pay me to teach a lesson. The kids should learn it. I should teach it, they should learn it, Case closed.” Well, I said to her, “You know, kids don’t learn
from people they don’t like.” (Laughter) (Applause) She said, “That’s just a bunch of hooey.” And I said to her, “Well, your year is going to be
long and arduous, dear.” Needless to say, it was. Some people think that you can either
have it in you to build a relationship, or you don’t. I think Stephen Covey had the right idea. He said you ought to just
throw in a few simple things, like seeking first to understand, as opposed to being understood. Simple things, like apologizing. You ever thought about that? Tell a kid you’re sorry, they’re in shock. (Laughter) I taught a lesson once on ratios. I’m not real good with math,
but I was working on it. (Laughter) And I got back and looked
at that teacher edition. I’d taught the whole lesson wrong. (Laughter) So I came back to class
the next day and I said, “Look, guys, I need to apologize. I taught the whole lesson wrong.
I’m so sorry.” They said, “That’s okay, Ms. Pierson. You were so excited, we just let you go.” I have had classes that were so low, so academically deficient, that I cried. I wondered, “How am I
going to take this group, in nine months, from where they are
to where they need to be? And it was difficult, it was awfully hard. How do I raise the self-esteem of a child and his academic achievement
at the same time? One year I came up with a bright idea. I told all my students, “You were chosen to be in my class because I am the best teacher and you are the best students, they put us all together so we could show
everybody else how to do it.” One of the students said, “Really?” (Laughter) I said, “Really. We have
to show the other classes how to do it, so when
we walk down the hall, people will notice us,
so you can’t make noise. You just have to strut.” (Laughter) And I gave them a saying to say: “I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful, and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here. I have things to do, people to impress, and places to go.” And they said, “Yeah!” (Laughter) You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you. (Applause) I gave a quiz, 20 questions. A student missed 18. I put a “+2” on his paper
and a big smiley face. (Laughter) He said, “Ms. Pierson, is this an F?” I said, “Yes.” (Laughter) He said, “Then why’d you
put a smiley face?” I said, “Because you’re on a roll. You got two right.
You didn’t miss them all.” (Laughter) I said, “And when we review this,
won’t you do better?” He said, “Yes, ma’am, I can do better.” You see, “-18” sucks
all the life out of you. “+2” said, “I ain’t all bad.” For years, I watched my mother
take the time at recess to review, go on home visits in the afternoon, buy combs and brushes
and peanut butter and crackers to put in her desk drawer
for kids that needed to eat, and a washcloth and some soap
for the kids who didn’t smell so good. See, it’s hard to teach kids who stink. (Laughter) And kids can be cruel. And so she kept those things in her desk, and years later, after she retired, I watched some of those
same kids come through and say to her, “You know, Ms. Walker, you made a difference in my life. You made it work for me. You made me feel like I was somebody, when I knew, at the bottom, I wasn’t. And I want you to just
see what I’ve become.” And when my mama died two years ago at 92, there were so many former
students at her funeral, it brought tears to my eyes,
not because she was gone, but because she left
a legacy of relationships that could never disappear. Can we stand to have more relationships? Absolutely. Will you like all your children?
Of course not. (Laughter) And you know your toughest
kids are never absent. (Laughter) Never. You won’t like them all, and the tough ones show up for a reason. It’s the connection.
It’s the relationships. So teachers become
great actors and great actresses, and we come to work
when we don’t feel like it, and we’re listening to policy
that doesn’t make sense, and we teach anyway. We teach anyway,
because that’s what we do. Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were
not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become
the best that they can possibly be. Is this job tough? You betcha. Oh God, you betcha. But it is not impossible. We can do this. We’re educators. We’re born to make a difference. Thank you so much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Every kid needs a champion | Rita Pierson

  1. I'm an educator myself and I studied in Catholic schools from first grade through high school. We were frightened of our teachers (nuns) because they yelled at us, hit us and made us feel less than nothing. I overcame a lot of my insecurities myself because I have a very strong personality but I wonder how many of our lives were negatively affected by those "teaching methods". Those teachers were not at all concerned about winning us over or developing any sort of positive relationship. After all is said and done, I wish I had had a teacher like Ms. Pearson.

  2. This make me cry, thank you for your inspiring word Teacher. I will definately use those words a motivation to teach the students better.

  3. Such a powerful and inspiring TedTalk and a very sad one finding out this amazing woman in this video passed in 2013. Like her mother did, she also left a legacy especially with this empowering TedTalk that the world is blessed to watch every single day! Thank you Mrs. Rita Pierson ✊

  4. Thank you for speaking this truth and for motivating me to continue on this path and be better for our students.

  5. That is where I get that from!!!! I want to be the person graduating that person. Thanks You.

  6. I Will Champion everyone of those children my friend, that is why I Have Elliott Bay. Daniel H Elliott, at your service.

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  8. I wish she could be my teacher and I hope I become one like her too !! To be humorous and encouraging students. This made me want to be an educator bring her wonderful attitude and her amazing American accent!! (This is probably the most I ever written for a comment)

  9. I’m currently in college studying to become an educator and watch this video often to recharge me and not lose sight of what I’m trying to achieve. Rest In Peace Ms. Rita.

  10. You know i had a teacher in middle school who showed us this video and when she said kids dont learn from people they dont like i face palmed because i hated her and throughout the year she wondered why i didn't learn.😒😒😒

  11. "Minus 18 sucks all the life out of you, but plus two says, 'I ain't all bad!'". I love this positive message!

  12. mam you are fabulous…. spectacular… just amazing …and i love you….. your spirit.. .. you are just awsome..

  13. Teaching has taught me that politics will always win over kids education, and kids grades will always magically change to make admin look good. I was just a body in a class full of kids that know it does not matter what they do. They will still pass.

    I will add to the turn over rate of teachers this summer, and I will not look back.

    Please to anyone thinking about becoming a teacher, volunteer at different schools or become a sub and move around to each school like I did before becoming a teacher. Know what you are getting into because not everyone can get out like I did and make it. The last thing you want to be is trapped in teaching. Omg I have seen people go crazy.

  14. Every time teaching gets tough for me i watch and think i CAN do this.
    Having so many kids cry because they were saying goodbye to me (and friends) makes this year's bs worth it.

  15. "If you say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you." So true. And I wish I had this confidence instilled in me from a younger age

  16. I’m running for Congress, and I’m a public school teacher. This always reminds me of why I’m running—all our children deserve a quality education!


  18. You were chosen!!!! I use that speech every year, and it does wonders for my students' morale! I remind them, almost daily, that they are the model class. "Why do you think you were chosen? Tell me what makes you great." Wow! They find reasons to believe in themselves. It's great!!! They behave better, try harder, and feel proud.

  19. Love this!!! I'm sharing this with my teachers! They need to see this one and be reminded really HOW to teach.

  20. I was ELT student when one of my professors showed us this video in the class, I liked it a lot but never really comprehended it back then, now that I'm a teacher as well I can feel this video from the bottom of my heart, I have a long long way to have her mentality but watching her just motivates me to become "The Educator" she talks about, the one that is born to make a difference.

  21. Wish I could like this multiple times! <3 I've hit the half way point in my degree and I'm at such a wall looking at the mountain I still have to climb. This amazing teacher inspires me to keep going!

  22. Wow, it's true. Everything is about relationships. I am now scared of how many people will show up at my funeral. Try and leave a legacy behind!

  23. Rest in peace Rita.
    It brought tears to my eyes when I read that you were gone, you inspire me so much, if it counts you made a difference for me, even though, I never meet you 😢.

  24. I watched this video in my teaching class today . I feel like teachers and future teachers need to watch this video as a form of a guide or motivation.She really spoke to my soul and I’m glad I watched this video 🙌🏾

  25. One of my colleagues showed this video at the end of the workshop we held together… It really inspires us as educators…. Thank you Ms Pearson…

  26. our teacher showed us this and we spent an entire day about self esteem, i honestly love my teachers, they may be curel at times but deep down they really care

  27. Creating a welcoming and safe classroom is one of the most important things a teacher can do. I do this anti-bullying lesson with students every year and it works wonders. Great visual and powerful message.


  28. Today I show this video to my mentoring class, a group of 19 students for whom I am the adult who will never give up on them. At the end of each of their weekly one on one mentoring sessions, we will use the saying she gave her class because my students are somebody, every single one of them are powerful and strong. Stay strong teachers!

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