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Creating Classroom Magic

In a speaking style that borders on spoken word, Christopher Emdin talks to the TED@NYC audience about effective teaching. Emdin’s inspirations? Rappers, the black church, and great conversations in local barber shops.

These places in the urban community, says Emdin, are the places where teachers can learn to truly engage their students in the classroom.

Emdin isn’t a run-of-the-mill educational leader. He’s a science advocate who studies hip hop and urban education while teaching teachers to teach at Columbia University. He writes about contemporary social issues for a number of reputable publications, and he’s involved as an advisor and speaker to organizations all over the world.

So what does Dr. Emdin have to say about teaching? He believes that “magic” — that almost indescribable way that some people have with capturing an audience and holding its attention — can be taught to teachers.

“Why does teacher education only give you theory and theory and tell you about standards and tell you about all 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. We can focus on content, and that’s fine. We can tell focus on theories, and that’s fine. But content and theories in the absence the magic of teaching and learning means nothing.”

“I’m here to tell you that magic can be taught.”

Dr. Emdin believes that teachers in training can learn the “magic” of audience engagement by studying the traits, body language, and other subtle communications cues used by great performers, and that teachers can apply those techniques for self-expression and engagement in their classrooms.

To learn more about Dr. Embin’s approach to teaching teachers to engage students, watch his

Hear what Dr. Embin has to say in this 7-minute-long TED Talk:

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