Monday, March 3, 2014


Last Saturday, I attended TEDxBirmingham, which I can say, without a doubt, was one of the most inspiring, transformational experiences of my life.

I was first introduced to TED talks in my college linguistics class. In an instant, I was hooked. I have spent many hours, shamelessly, learning from these speakers and connecting with their words. As an English teacher, I love words. Spoken or written, words are my passion, and TED talks brought out that passion in a new and exciting way.

TED talks are based on the idea of inspiration, and that's what I love most about them. Their topics range from science to education, activism to anthropology. There is a TED talk out there for everyone, and I highly recommend finding one that speaks to you.

One of the assistant principals at HHS, Jennifer Hogan (@jennifer_hogan), sent out the information about TEDxBirmingham late in 2013 to the faculty and staff, and I jumped at the opportunity to attend. Because this was the first TEDxBirmingham, seats were limited, and applications were required to get a ticket. Mrs. Hogan pointed out in her email that there was an opportunity to apply for a scholarship. This scholarship was given to educators and was labeled as applying for an Educator Fellow. Only 20 applications were accepted and asked to attend TEDxBirmingham for free.

I applied. I was accepted. I was thrilled.

I'm glad to say that the K-12 Relations Coordinator, Dylan Ferniary, came to find each of us during the conference and helped us meet each other. It was a rich experience to meet all of these fellow educators and to share this conference with them. It is Dylan's hope that we, as educators, can begin to network more in-person. We will continue to stay in touch and experience TED events together.

TEDxBirmingham had wonderful speakers in many different subject areas. Each TEDxBirmingham speaker was fantastic, but there were a few that stand out to me and spoke to me, personally.

Malik Kofi is a 12-year-old prodigy on the cello, but he is also so much more than that. Malik let each of us know what we can inspire, not matter our circumstances or age.

Victoria Hollis works with the students of Birmingham City. She brought the audience to their feet with her inspirational plea to remove the descriptors for students and view them all as equal and as children.

Glenny Brock has dedicated many years to restoring the Lyric theater in downtown Birmginham. Remember your city, she urged us, and make it the best that it can be.

Jen Barnett, a once-business owner, reminded us to never quit. Even in times that Jen couldn't see the light, she was able to laugh it off and push herself harder than she imagined possible. Her bravery, she says, is her best quality and what makes her special and a standout.

Pat Hymel reminded each and every one of us to revel in admitting failures and errors - not matter how great the consequence of our action. Admitting our mistakes leads others to do the same.

I highly recommend attending a TED or TEDx conference. I walked out of the conference a person different than the one who had entered that morning. As educators, it's extremely important that we continue to push ourselves for our schools, ourselves, and our students. Even though I am a brand new teacher and I may not be quite as jaded or uninspired as some, I am and will forever push myself and my bounds.

At the end of the day, I walked out of the TEDxBirmingham conference asking myself, "What would my TED Talk attempt to inspire?" I'm still not sure, and right now, I don't have to know. But I'd like to know that, one day, I might inspire somebody the way that each speaker at TEDxBirmingham inspired me.
Link to Livestream above.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little inspiration.
Ms. Z

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