They were targeted by a cruel TikTok challenge. How they responded is an example to us all.

As kids have prepared to go back to school in recent weeks, a cruel prank has circulated on TikTok. Dubbed the #NewTeacherChallenge, parents are sharing videos of them telling their kids that they have a new teacher, showing the kids the face of someone who is disabled or who has a facial deformity or disfigurement, and then filming the child's reaction.

If that sounds horrible, it's because it is.

The people whose faces are being used in this challenge have every right to be angry and hurt. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior, and no one would blame them if they colorfully told the whole internet to shove it.

But two of the targets in these challenges are well-known disability activists who somehow manage to always take the high road, serving as an example to the rest of us. Their ability to respond to people's basest behaviors with dignity and strength, calling out the cruelty with clear and calm eloquence, saying over and over again, "It is absolutely not okay to treat me or any other human being this way and here's why," is awe-inspiring. If you want a role model for your kids, look to these ladies.


Lizzie Velasquez was born with a rare congenital disease called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome, which prevents her from putting on weight, among other physical symptoms After being dubbed "The World's Ugliest Woman" at age 17, she became a popular of advocacy for people who are different, for anti-bullying, and for teaching empathy and compassion. She continues to be an ongoing target of horrible memes and jokes, and yet she continues to respond by teaching valuable lessons and showing her own kind heart with her motivational speaking.

She shared a video when the New Teacher Challenge first started surfacing, explaining how the prank was not okay:

This week, she posted another video showing how not to teach your kids about empathy utilizing this challenge. Some parents might use it as a teaching opportunity, getting kids to see why their own reactions are unkind, but if the parent's own reaction to the reaction is to laugh, then kids can get confused and the lesson gets lost.

Responses to Velasquez's videos have been largely positive, but of course she has also received even more cruel messages. And again, she reacts by stating that these people "need help figuring out how to channel their own anger/hate in a way that doesn't hurt someone else." (I would personally like to tell these people to shove it on her behalf, but I will try to follow her example.)

Melissa Blake is another disability activist and writer who has been the subject of countless jokes, memes, and pranks on social media. She wrote an article for Refinery29 about her face being used as a prop for unkindness-as-entertainment in the New Teacher Challenge.

One thing she pointed out was that the parents making these videos aren't just being cruel to her and others with disabilities, but also to their own children.

"I can't help but feel sorry for their children," she wrote. "Imagine your mom filming a vulnerable moment, one where you can't help but burst into tears, and they actually post it for the whole world to see. How is humiliating your child, or watching other children go through that, a source of amusement?"

She was also direct about the impact this cruel treatment has on her personally:

"I want to be clear: I am violated. Every single time. Each photo, taunt, and cruel word is a clear violation of my dignity and my worth as a human being. And every time these platforms fail to take action, they're sending the message that this bullying is okay. So many disabled people have become inured to our appearance being mocked. That's not something we should ever have to get used to."

Blake battles the trolls in a delightfully subversive way—by insisting she be seen in all her glory, refusing to hide away the way some tell her she should, and letting bullies know they will not win in her world.

Not only should we be teaching our kids to understand and embrace that some people are going to look different or move differently or have different abilities, but we should also show our kids outstanding examples of strength, resilience, and respect they can look up to. These women fit that bill to a tee.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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