Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic
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Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic

Right now there is an aspiring teacher who is working on a 60-page paper based on some age-old education theory developed by some dead education professor wondering to herself what this task that she’s engaging in has to do with what she wants to do with her life, which is be an educator, change lives, and spark magic. Right now there is an aspiring teacher in a graduate school of education who is watching a professor babble on and on about engagement in the most disengaging way possible. Right now there’s a first-year teacher at home who is pouring through lesson plans trying to make sense of standards, who is trying to make sense of how
to grade students appropriately, while at the same time saying to herself over and over again, “Don’t smile till November,” because that’s what she was taught in her teacher education program. Right now there’s a student who is coming up with a way to convince his mom or dad that he’s very, very sick and can’t make it to school tomorrow. On the other hand, right now there are amazing educators that are sharing information, information that is shared in such a beautiful way that the students are sitting
at the edge of their seats just waiting for a bead of sweat to drop off the face of this person so they can soak up all that knowledge. Right now there is also a person who has an entire audience rapt with attention, a person that is weaving a powerful narrative about a world that the people who are listening have never imagined or seen before, but if they close their eyes tightly enough, they can envision that world because the storytelling is so compelling. Right now there’s a person who can tell an audience to put their hands up in the air and they will stay there till he says, “Put them down.” Right now. So people will then say, “Well, Chris, you describe the guy who is going through some awful training but you’re also describing these powerful educators. If you’re thinking about the world of education or urban education in particular, these guys will probably cancel each other out, and then we’ll be okay.” The reality is, the folks I described as the master teachers, the master narrative builders, the master storytellers are far removed from classrooms. The folks who know the skills about how to teach and engage an audience don’t even know what teacher certification means. They may not even have the degrees to be able to have anything to call an education. And that to me is sad. It’s sad because the people who I described, they were very disinterested in the learning process, want to be effective teachers, but they have no models. I’m going to paraphrase Mark Twain. Mark Twain says that proper preparation, or teaching, is so powerful that it can turn bad morals to good, it can turn awful practices into powerful ones, it can change men and transform them into angels. The folks who I described earlier got proper preparation in teaching, not in any college or university, but by virtue of just being in the
same spaces of those who engage. Guess where those places are? Barber shops, rap concerts, and most importantly, in the black church. And I’ve been framing this idea
called Pentecostal pedagogy. Who here has been to a black church? We got a couple of hands. You go to a black church, their preacher starts off and he realizes that he has to engage the audience, so he starts off with this sort of wordplay in the beginning oftentimes, and then he takes a pause, and he says, “Oh my gosh, they’re
not quite paying attention.” So he says, “Can I get an amen?” Audience: Amen. Chris Emdin: So I can I get an amen?
Audience: Amen. CE: And all of a sudden, everybody’s reawoken. That preacher bangs on the pulpit for attention. He drops his voice at a very, very low volume when he wants people to key into him, and those things are the skills that we need for the most engaging teachers. So why does teacher education only give you theory and theory and tell you about standards and tell you about all of these things that have nothing to do with the basic skills, that magic that you need to engage an audience, to engage a student? So I make the argument that
we reframe teacher education, that we could focus on content, and that’s fine, and we could focus on theories, and that’s fine, but content and theories with the absence of the magic of teaching and learning means nothing. Now people oftentimes say,
“Well, magic is just magic.” There are teachers who, despite all their challenges, who have those skills, get into those schools and are
able to engage an audience, and the administrator walks by and says, “Wow, he’s so good, I wish all
my teachers could be that good.” And when they try to describe what that is, they just say, “He has that magic.” But I’m here to tell you that magic can be taught. Magic can be taught. Magic can be taught. Now, how do you teach it? You teach it by allowing people to go into those spaces where the magic is happening. If you want to be an aspiring
teacher in urban education, you’ve got to leave the confines of that university and go into the hood. You’ve got to go in there and
hang out at the barbershop, you’ve got to attend that black church, and you’ve got to view those folks that have the power to engage and just take notes on what they do. At our teacher education classes at my university, I’ve started a project where every single student that comes in there sits and watches rap concerts. They watch the way that the rappers move and talk with their hands. They study the way that he
walks proudly across that stage. They listen to his metaphors and analogies, and they start learning these little things that if they practice enough becomes the key to magic. They learn that if you just stare at a student and raise your eyebrow about a quarter of an inch, you don’t have to say a word because they know that that
means that you want more. And if we could transform teacher education to focus on teaching teachers how to create that magic then poof! we could make dead classes come alive, we could reignite imaginations, and we can change education. Thank you. (Applause)

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100 thoughts on “Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic

  1. Fuck pedagogy. I just went through went through a Fac. of Ed. and experienced the same thing. Teaching is more about intuition, commitment, creativity, and common sense than all of that BS.

  2. Ask any student and they tell you that what this guy says should be absolutely obvious. Saying that telling students to shut up and listen is what should be done makes me so incredibly sad. And every day we see that it doesn't work at all. Everybody wants to learn, but the education system manages to take that curiosity away from most students in less than a couple of years of school.

  3. A great ted talk but stidents all have different ways of learning for example some student learn best from writing down note others doing puzzles or problem solving etc. what im trying to say the lecture/talking method might not work for everyone.

  4. so do the preachers do that 4-5 times a day? rappers don't perform for 4-5 hours a show every day. The energy level they are creating may be good for those environments, were they want people to have fun and spend money either there or later or come back to the next show. A teacher needs students to want to come back for the next "show", but is it on the teacher to do that entirely? musicians have managers who delegate a lot of work to other people in a team behind the scenes. Just like a preacher will have other people. As a teacher we get a teaching assistant if we have a specific need with SEN students and they essentially are there to make sure those students aren't struggling. Teachers get no help to make the students want to come back to the next lesson. We just get told thats what we have to be doing and are expected to be masters at it.

    i understand the idea that energy is contagious, but do students thinking a teacher is the best actually make it so? do they learn the most in those lessons or do they think the lessons are best for reasons other than how much or how effectively they learnt something?
    The situations you gave are hollow in terms of learning, they aren't difficult. No one goes to a rap concert and says "i don't understand ". because they just have to listen and be entertained. Learning requires participation that is notably absent except for "can i get an ahmen". Not exactly comparable to "can i get the answer to question 10?" 

    if teachers need to have such high energy levels then there needs to be more help available (like in finland where classes have two teachers) or less none-teaching related jobs for them to do.

  5. Right now im wondering if theres a point to continue watching. Right now im begging for him to finish and give some insructions. Right now im annoyed at waisting minutes of my life on listening to him telling me somthing i already knew. Right now im giving up and watching somthing else.

  6. Education is not entertainment. Sure you can catch their attention with magic but what are the long term consequences if the student is just coming in for entertainment and not thinking 'deeply' about the subject.

  7. It's worth noting that the presenters methodology is failing in this instance. He's utilizing the methods he encourages…and he's loosing "students" quickly.  I wish we could see the statistics  of when people stop watching a video….I suspect most of the drop-off is at the half way mark when he starts talking about rap music and church.

  8. I agree to the degree that he's saying we should know our kids and what engages them in order to teach them. That sounds great. It's hard to get inspired teachers when they're getting paid less and less and college is getting more and more expensive. It's not a simple, be-a-more-magical-teacher deal.

  9. Teaching Magic

    Excellent concepts in the video. And you can tell who the crappy teachers are in the comments that don't get it especially with long winded boring responses.

  10. Life is a stage–literally in a classroom:)
    Students have to be entertained to feel relaxed enough to readily absorb and mentally manipulate knowledge.

  11. This pompous twat alienated me from the minute he started speaking. Moreover, there is nothing at all new in his idea. Teachers have always been encouraged to use the latest media and trends to engage students. The only difference here is that this guy is presenting himself as a star, and a rather dreary one at that. Cheers

  12. I'm confused about this hole thing. It sounds racist or is he just talking about black people. IDK. It doesn't make since.

  13. this guy is awesome! i saw him speak at the american studies association annual meeting in november and he really opened my eyes to hip hop education and a unique approach that really works for engaging students

  14. This guy is amazing. Not only because the subject is good, but also because he did, all the time, exactly what he was describing.

  15. Erm… well, but we want students to become critical thinkers who challenge and question us – not a manipulated mass, who fancies us…. There is not much thinking going on in a rock concert or in church.

  16. Moral of the story for the ones "too quick to judge" what the presenter is saying. Be more engaging in the classroom.

  17. Wow, powerful. Why deviate from students' reality? When we have the answer in things they already know and love? Great speaker, most importantly, great message.

  18. As a student of secondary school teaching, I couldn't agree more. University teacher Education is exactly as he describes it.

  19. These ted talks are getting shorter and shorter, does anyone know why they've reduced their length so much?

  20. I say, amen. When teaching in front of a class, you're a public speaker. There are teachable techniques that engage audiences, and then there are the snore producers. The black church preachers have raised public speaking to a powerful art form. Count how many times MLK Jr. repeats the simple, four-word phrase, "I have a dream," and you will learn a public speaking lesson about the power of repetition with pauses. This is not about show biz. It's about keeping students awake long enough to hear what you say, and convincing them that what you say is important. 
    Constance Emerson Crooker  

  21. Wow this is what i left my interview with a major teacher training program when i realized that all the interveiwees were young white people to train to teach in the urban classroom. they have degrees and they dont have felony charges in their past. yet the uncles, cousins, fathers and family community folk dont qualify to go thru the teacher trainings and get the salaries while doing this. wow…..that talk was way tooo short…but a serious point…why cant it be those folk instead of people that come to watch them and learn from them how to teach why cant these folk be the ones that are taught to teach…wow…???

  22. Right NOW !!! This is a bit weak, and quite boring ?!? I guess you either got it or you don't, and you can only teach 'magic' if you got it.

  23. I had a teacher who did cartwheels down the hall to demonstrate how a hydra walks. We adored him, and hung on his words. I developed my own style by watching and listening to and wanting to make a difference like him.

  24. Teachers Creating Magic?

    Preachers capture the imagination of those who believe in that thing they were told exist, even though they cannot see, hear, or feel, it. 

    But because their parents, grand parents, and other senior members of their society believe in it too. So they go along with the tradition.

    Learning in school and college is not based on FAITH, but on personal application, preparation, and resolve to succeed.

    I was whipped several times for not doing homework, or not getting my Algebra lessons and answers correct when asked by my teachers. But most of the time I did not have the text books, because my mother couldn't afford to buy them for me.

    And some of my teachers did not allow me to look into another child's book during classes. Some even told me that their parents are not rich, but they managed to provide books for their children.

    And that was that. I manage the best way I could until I couldn't manage any longer, and left Primary school at 16 years of age to seek employment.

    Derryck S. Griffith.

  25. I find the "magic" argument not thoroughly thought through. People usually create this magic when they are passionate or, at the least, enthusiastic about something.  Also, while an audience member can be mesmerised by a passionate/ magic speech, they might not be moved by the content of that speech.  

    In other words, a kid may enjoy listening/ engage with his/her biology teacher explaining today's class, but not necessarily understand it or even feel intimidated by the complex concepts and terminology.

    I understand what Christopher is trying to put across here and fair enough, but in my opinion, there is so much more in successful teaching and learning.

  26. Wannabe writers, I recommend you pay attention, because what this man is talking about is not only usable in public speaches! * takes notes *

  27. The message of the video is great, however regarding the ''magic'' i think its a combination of interest in the subject/work and the teacher's ability to make things interesting to the recipient. The students interest has to come first and it must be nurtured as soon as it is discovered with teachers who have the ''magic''  

  28. "Content and theories but without the magic of teaching and learning is nothing!" Cheers to that! Amen!

  29. Building a narrative is one of most complex and nuanced thing that a human being can do. My own experience started through building compelling and engaging sessions of Dungeons & Dragons for my high school gaming group. Between that experience and my ongoing work as a player and researcher of gaming environments, I hope to be able to encourage and inspire others to follow their passions, whatever they may be.
    Standards are like accounting documents. They are a moment in time which have no ability to grade retention or application. At some point schools will figure out that the journey of education, not the test score, is the most important element to gain from education. Being given an opportunity to solve a REAL problem is more valuable than any meaningless exercise. If you want kids to stay and invest in your community, show them the rough spots. I guarantee you those that take the work to smooth them will be forever changed and connected to your locality.

  30. AWESOME TALK! However, creating "magic" is not merely a trait to be taught… it has a lot to do with PERSONALITY traits that not everyone has. We all can learn to play basketball (in this case, to teach effectively) but everyone can be Michael Jordan…

  31. Emdin encourages me to look more closely at the 'black church', not for the religious content but for the charismatic model of teaching.

  32. He simply wants to stress the very old and cognitional wisdom that knowing subject very well doesn't make for a good teacher. 

    Simple as that.

  33. I was thinking that two teachers that interact with each other well teaching a class would allow students to really get involved with a class and would bring it in to a group learning session over all the pressure put on one person. Which isn't really true in reality most things are done in a team. Rather than one person doing it all. Given their is times when people need to do things alone, but generally most of the time people work in groups.

  34. I just wanted to take some time to share something from FB. A man I knew in passing contracted not benign cancer, but an aggressive form, and it was eating at his spine. He is was about ready to die, too. He could not walk, over 100 people where praying for him, and now he is making a good recovery. As a theologian myself, and a servant of God's word I have not been a man of faith, but a man of intelligence. Even so, don't ask me to explain what happened, just go search Richard Scholes, you will see a fat man with a beard. Above all, I just want to say thank you to God, for making a believer out of me.

  35. Is something wrong with me?? I lost interest in the video within the first 2 minutes. Was he demonstrating 'how not to engage students'. I definitely didn't see any "MAGIC"

  36. Lol. Training to teach right now. He's got a point, you need to engage your audience. But all the research is showing that teachers need to do less talking, let the students do the talking, and then just come back to disintegrate all the crap they come up with into smithereens.

  37. Many people commenting here have missed the point.  Chris is not saying that magic is ALL you need to teach, he is saying that teacher education is focusing exclusively on theory and standards and not preparing teachers with tangible skills they can use to engage students in the classroom.  As a former high school teacher who is now a teacher educator and researcher, I know that he is absolutely correct.  I agree that what is most engaging and conducive to learning will not be just the teacher talking.  Research shows that the students should be doing most of the talking.  However, research by Pekrun et al. also shows that teachers' enthusiasm is strongly correlated to student enjoyment and achievement.  Unfortunately this research also shows that students are bored most of the time in school.  And who could blame them?  School is boring!  We need to train teachers to be responsive to students' thinking and lived experiences and foster their curiosity and creativity if we hope for student engagement (which leads to achievement).

  38. I listen to these talks to get their cadence as well.  I'd love to up my vocal game for my kids.  It doesn't have to be extravagant, but little things help.

  39. So education all about charisma, entertainment and forgetting about "some dead guy", like say, Socrates? So education is all about passive receptive sponge students "soaking up" the emanations of the super motivated entertaining charismatic preacher-teacher?
    This guy presents the same talk over and over to a different audience every time. The Gospel preacher spends an entire WEEK preparing ONE 45 minute entertainment sermon. 
    Have these people ever experienced classroom teaching? 6 one hour lessons PER DAY??? What kind of superhuman uberteacher has the capacity and energy to do what this guy tries to promote just for one week?
    This talk is BS.

  40. Magic is birthed from passion and love of content. If you say you can't sustain that magic for multiple lessons in a day… then ask yourself the question "Do I love what I'm teaching?" It's more to it than to just love to teach… You have to first love WHAT you are teaching… Without that, then you will grow tired every day from 1st to 6th to 9th period… James Comer says that no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship. George Washington Carver says all learning is understanding relationships. This is the essence of what Mr. Emdin is speaking about… Creating an opportunity to build a relationship of interest, trust, and for lack of a better term admiration for the teacher, held by the student.

  41. Yo Chris, I would love you visit urban schools and sit in and see if theory really works. The fact of the matter is that your audience are educated and civil. You can get all excited about dropping rap lyrics and they'll repeat them with you BUT are you actually teaching them the subject they are suppose to learn? You and I know you can fool these white people, to convince real educators show us a video of you doing this, OK? It isn't that easy. Can I get an AMEN!

  42. That was very good, I just heard about this book today,
    FOR WHITE FOLKS WHO TEACH IN THE HOOD, im buying it tomorrow.

  43. Hello Christopher Emdin, Eugene here. Yes I have worshiped in a "black church". I spoke in such a church. I have been a student under many teachers all of my life. (75years) I have learned that body language naturally follows what is in one's heart. Good actors learn that to look genuine they must first feel genuine in their heart. Important facts are important for a reason. Teachers and students can and will become excited if they know and appreciate those reasons.

  44. While I certainly agree with all what he said, I am wondering what can be the exact practical plan that we can implement in order to teach this magic? Yes, having teachers going barber shops or rap concerts, but practically speaking, how can we truly implement that?

  45. Some of the most inspiring teachers I’ve had were so soft and quiet, that their presence was louder than a rapper. Others were in between but made up for presence by being able to connect one on one. Remember that teachers are as diverse as their students. Just because they teach, doesn’t mean they are all theatrical.

  46. Get it correct is called Black Magic. Now what going to sell it in a bottle K R S 1 speeks about this in one of his Llectures

  47. What is the "magic" that you are going to bring to your classroom?
    – I’m going to try and use my humor to bring the classroom culture to life.
    What strength do you plan on bringing to your classroom? Share it with the group.

    – My sense of humor has always been a strength and I have been trying to bring that to the classroom – engaging with the kids as best as I can but it’s a work in progress.

  48. The strength I plan on bringing to the classroom is aligning students' interests with the content. I have already made efforts in doing so. For example, when presenting examples of thesis statements, I showed examples that included arguments about fortnite, hip hop, basketball, and school cafeteria food. Students initially may not have been interested in learning about thesis statements, or constructing their own. When you can find ways to align the material you are teaching to the students' interests, you are instantly increasing their attentiveness.

  49. My CAT Decided What I ATE for 24 HOURS (And This Is What Happended…)

  50. This is horrible advice. Be your dam self. No student likes a teacher acting like they think their students act.

  51. One of my favourite teachers in school had been there for 38 years and never got a teaching qualification. He had so much experience, knowledge of his subject and a sense of humour. Most other teachers didn’t have that and I had to work a lot harder to do well in their subjects.

  52. It doesn’t seem realistic to be as engaging as a black preacher all day every day. The amazing sermon would be a minimum of 5 times a day, 5 days a week. Teachers are definitely trying to be engaging, but at some point people who are not teachers need to understand how much stress teachers are under. If these ideas could really be put into the classroom, then each classroom would need 2 teachers(or more) so that the teachers could take turns “performing” and “entertaining” while the other teacher rejuvenates, plans the next “sermon” and gets some grading and parent phone calls and PD off their plate.

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