By Arjun Mehrotra
Student at United World College of South East Asia, Singapore
Like thousands of other high school students, I routinely watch TED Talks — but I wanted to take it to the next level. Luckily, in January 2014, TED had just introduced the TED-Ed Club program and I felt that starting a club would be a great place to start — I hoped that TED-Ed Clubs would give me and my fellow students an intimate understanding of what a good TED Talk looks like while also enhancing our public speaking skills. My class consisted of a group of 21 students enrolled in the Foundation IB program. This meant that we did not do the IGCSE exams like our peers and therefore had about 20-40 minutes of Personal & Social Education each morning. The teachers in school already had a plan in place for these sessions but were quite supportive of my idea for the TED-Ed Club, with the understanding that it would be student initiated and student led.
We built TED-Ed Clubs into the classroom curriculum. This entailed watching TED-Ed Lessons, discussing TED Talks and working on our TED-Ed Club presentations during class time! We divided the program into two parts. First, we had a five week preparation period, where each student formulated their talk, followed by a two week break, during which we took our final exams. Later, each student presented their ideas in a TED-style talk (the final presentation) as part of “Global Perspectives,” an inter-disciplinary critical thinking class.
When I first proposed the idea, not all of my fellow classmates were pleased. Certain students worried that it might be a waste of time. I explained that the ability to communicate well is one of the most important skills required to excel in any field, and that TED-Ed Clubs was a unique opportunity for students to be able to speak about anything they wanted to talk about. I was also in the unique position of being both a student facilitator and a participant in the program. I myself gave a talk on “Why we need superheroes,” while also guiding my peers in giving their talks. My experience in debate combined with my love for talking meant that I was in a position to give people tips and encourage them.
It was tougher than what I had anticipated. To be honest, there were nights when I would sit staring at my laptop wondering what I had committed to. But it was all worth it, for we (my peers and I) now understand the value of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone and adopting a growth mindset. What did I learn? Well, not every student is eager to speak in front of large audiences. And that’s absolutely fine. The purpose of our TED-Ed Club was not to create public speakers, but to create empowered students who can voice their opinions in their communities and beyond. It was great. I was able to get to know my teachers and engage with the curriculum in a meaningful manner. I was able to empower my peers and help them speak up on issues big and small. At the moment, I am organising the inaugural TEDx conference in my school, in addition to a live streaming of the TEDGlobal conference. We are looking into reintroducing the TED-Ed Club next year and hope to make it an annual, student-led initiative. Like all things TED, TED-Ed Clubs is an idea worth spreading.