High school TED-Ed Club Member from Singapore discusses student leadership

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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.

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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.

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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.

3 Comments

  1. Cornelius Grebe

    Hi Arjun,
    Very well done.

  2. julia gardiner

    How inspiring!

  3. John

    Thanks for the entry. We need more posts like this as the Clubs grow, to show others how it can be done.

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