Jamie McSparin, a teacher in charge of the school’s academy program for at-risk sophomore and juniors, posed a challenge for her fellow teachers: tell an individual student that they are important and appreciated.
“I wanted to let you know that you inspire me to be a better teacher and you make me want to come to school every day, and I think you’re awesome so keep up the good work,” McSparin tells her chosen student in the opening of the video, which has been seen 1,500 times in less than 24 hours after it was posted.
The student smiles and musters out a “thank you,” taken aback by the attention.
“Initially when we pulled the kids out, they all thought they were in trouble,” McSparin said of the “Positivity Project.”
“We’d look up their schedule and pull the kids from class for 30 seconds and the kids were all like, ‘Oh my gosh, did I not turn something in?’ and we’re like, ‘No, no, just stand there.’ Any teacher/student interaction always seems to be negative, and that was something that bothered me, too. No matter if they’re a good kid or a trouble maker or anything, they always thought they were in trouble," she explained.
McSparin wanted to flip the script on that negative association, and it’s safe to say the experiment worked.
“Last spring one of the teachers had students write gratitude letters to their teachers, so I figured, why can’t we flip that around?” McSparin said. “Because we really do, but a lot of times they don’t know that.”
It took three weeks for her to round up the teachers during their planning periods to participate in the video, “and teachers were like, ‘Let’s do this,’” she recalled.
“It was a really good response and afterwards they were like, ‘That was a really good thing for me to do today,’” said McSparin. “Some teachers would come up to me two or three days later and say, ‘I’m having a bad day. Let’s do another video.’”
She was impressed with the wide range of kids the teachers had chosen.
“Academically and demographically, they’re all different,” McSparin said. “It started that dialogue between teachers and students which humanizes the whole experience. It’s not, ‘Here, I’m teaching you.’ It’s ‘Let’s build a relationship and make this an experience.’”
The entire staff just watched the video for the first time yesterday and is happy to now share it with the world in hopes of inspiring other schools to do the same.
“I think the takeaway is just to be positive on all occasions,” McSparin said. “Smile at people and tell them they’re doing a good job.”