A teacher made a student cry in a good way — by telling him test scores aren't everything.

When you're a kid, kind words from a caring adult can make such a lasting impression.

That's exactly what happened to Indiana third-grader Rylan as he was gearing up for something most kids dread: standardized testing week.

His teacher, who has asked to remain anonymous, gave each of her students a letter and a cookie before the big test. The letter is touching, but it's the video of Rylan's reaction to it that really gets me (you'll see that at the end).


Rylan got in the car today and told me he was embarrassed because he cried at school. I asked him what upset him, and he told me he cried because he was happy about a letter his teacher gave his class before they take ISTEP. Needless to say, when I read it, I cried too. We need not just more teachers like her, but also more people like her in this world. "These tests do not define you. There are many ways of being smart. YOU are smart! YOU are enough! You are the light that brightens my day and the reason I am happy to come to work each day. So, in the midst of all these tests, remember that there is no way to "test" all of the amazing and awesome things that make you, YOU."
A photo posted by Abby Martin (@absmarti) on

Schools can have so much at stake with their testing results, they often inadvertently transfer that pressure onto the students.

Whether you think the amount of testing being done in public schools is great or if you wish it were reduced dramatically, one thing we can all probably agree on is that it's important to not send kids the wrong message — that their entire worth is wrapped up in whatever score they get.

The need for kids to hear this stuff is real. School pressures are waaaayyy different from when most of us were kids.

I'll never forget when I drove my daughter home after results came in from a three-day marathon of fifth-grade testing. Usually she was bubbly and happy on days like these because she often got the highest score in her class and was proud of herself — she worked hard and did her best to beat her own scores and loved feeling like it was paying off.

This time she was salty. Her friend had bested her, and though she congratulated her sincerely and effusively, she couldn't help but feel a pang of disappointment that her "winning" streak had been broken.


My daughter exercising her love of learning: on her way to Battle of the Books (L) and learning photography basics (R).

A lightbulb went off in my head. Her self-worth is all wrapped up in this, I realized. This is all she's ever known as a measure of who she is and where she ranks.

I pulled the car over and we had an instant talk because it was that important. My speech went something like this:

"You know that if you never achieved another thing in your entire life, you would still be loved and valued in our family just for who you are, right? It'd be disappointing if you stopped trying to reach your potential, but even if you did, we'd still love you.
Who you are isn't proven by your track record of achievements — it's the moments when you're sad but are kind to others anyway, when you have a good reason to be a jerk but you choose not to be, and it's when no one is looking and you don't have to be a good person but you are anyway.
You will achieve amazing things in your life, and I will always be happy for you when you do, but not because it's proving anything about who you are. I already know who you are."

I saw a lightbulb go off for her then too. I hope it was a pivotal moment in how she will orient herself when going after lofty goals throughout her life.

Here's Rylan and his mom talking about what it meant to get his teacher's letter.

Hearing and seeing Rylan's face and his mother's gratitude as they share the letter is all the proof we need — a little kindness can go a long way.

If you're not completely sure a kid in your life totally knows how to separate their test scores from their self-worth, this is a great thing to share with them right now.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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The Holderness family has made quite a name for themselves creating fun parody songs, but they may have just outdone themselves. As the world awaits the premiere of the filmed version Hamilton's original staged production on Disney +, the Holdernesses have released a "Hamilton Mask-up Parody Medley" that perfectly captures inane mask-wearing debates in the musical mastery of Hamilton.

As of now, it's only been up for six hours and has already been shared more than 35,000 times. Hamilton fans love it, recognizing familiar tunes such as "Aaron Burr, Sir," "My Shot," and "You'll Be Back." But even people who have never seen or heard Hamilton before will appreciate the cultural commentary on mask-wearing—an issue that has the U.S. struggling as it attempts to manage a pandemic in a highly individualistic society. As the video points out, public health isn't a partisan thing, and mask-wearing to protect others certainly shouldn't be something that angers people.

Check it out:

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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