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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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teachers

Arnold Ford shares a birthday—and birthday joy—with one of his students.

When Arnold Ford went to work on his birthday in February of 2024, he knew he was in for a treat. One of his students, a girl named Cali, has the same birthday as he does, and Ford was ready.

As soon as he saw Cali come bounding down the hallway with her arms spread wide, the assistant principal tossed his backpack aside, swooped the girl up and spun her around in joyful celebration. Then the two raced down the hallway, arm in arm, so Cali could give him a balloon and a cupcake she had saved for him.

All of this was captured on the security cameras at west Philadelphia's Mastery Charter School, Mann Elementary, and the footage has people cheering for amazing educators.


"I’m so grateful to God for allowing me to see another year," Ford wrote when he shared the video on his Instagram page. "I’m even more grateful that LOVE continues to be the centerpiece of my entire life."

"And… as you can see… I’m also grateful that I get to share a birthday with one of my favorite students," he continued. "And yes… she brought me a balloon and a cupcake, and in exchange, I told her she could dress down today. Fair trade if you ask me!

Watch:

People are gushing over the exchange in the comments.

"Do y'all teach 25th grade!? I need an elementary school experience do-over!" wrote one person.

"Bro my own parents never been that happy to see me 😭," wrote another.

"Can you imagine marinating in that love on a daily basis? What a gift this man is!" shared another.

Several people pointed out that no one else in the video so much as blinked, which is a testament to the fact that this wasn't out of the ordinary. Clearly, Mr. Ford brings this energy to work every day.

"I think it’s important for us to celebrate WITH our students and families," Ford tells Upworthy. "[Cali's] birthday is a big deal to her, and so is mine. We talk about it ALL year. So when that day came, what you saw was just a natural, genuine reaction that we both had. She was excited to be celebrating me, and I was excited to be celebrating her."

Educators like Ford can make such an enormous difference in children's lives, transforming a school into a place filled with positive interactions where kids know people genuinely care about and enjoy being around them. That's what Ford loves about his job as well.

"It really is the reciprocal nature of the work," he tells Upworthy. "We get so much more than we ever put out. Love. Joy. Laughter. The more we sow those things, we see them return exponentially in this work. That’s why when I often say 'Love is the curriculum,' it’s because I recognize how blessed I am to be able to put positivity and joy at the center of my experience with them. It’s humbling."

"In other words, I love that I don’t have to wait until Fridays to get paid." he adds.

Here's to Mr. Ford and all of the dedicated, incredible educators out there who pour their love into helping children learn and grow and thrive. They really do deserve all the balloons and cupcakes—and all the pay raises as well.

You can follow Arnold Ford on Instagram.


This article originally appeared on 4.7.24

Florida teacher Yolanda Turner engaged 8th grade students in a dance-off.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Teachers deserve all the kudos, high fives, raises, accolades, prizes and thanks for everything they do. Even if they just stuck to academics alone, they'd be worth far more than they get, but so many teachers go above and beyond to teach the whole child, from balancing equations to building character qualities.

One way dedicated educators do that is by developing relationships and building rapport with their students. And one surefire way to build rapport is to dance with them.

A viral video shared by an assistant principal at Sumner High School & Academy in Riverview, Florida shows a group of students gathered around one student as he challenges a teacher to a dance-off.


"Our 8th grade Stingrays having a well deserved exam dance break," wrote assistant principal Natalie McClain. "Of course our teachers are ending 2022 with a win."

The teacher, Ms. Yolanda Turner, took the challenge—and the students went wild.

Watch:

The student really thought he had her, didn't he? It looked as if his soul left his body when he tapped her shoulders and then realized what he'd done. But to her credit, she took it in stride and took him out with her dance moves.

"The music was on, all the kids were pumped," Turner told Fox 13. "So it was like, let's have a dance challenge. So I'm like, okay, all right, so everybody's having fun. And I said, 'I'm going to tap in. I'm going to tap into the dance.'"

"I really try to emphasize for kids to be their authentic selves and to really never be afraid to express who they are no matter who's watching," she told the outlet.

This dance-off video is a prime example of how schools can be places of joyful connection in addition to academic achievement. Gaining students' respect doesn't require being a stuffy authoritarian hard nose, and students generally respond better to teachers they genuinely care for. Meeting them where they are is one of the best ways to reach kids and creating experiences that include for silliness and fun is one of the best ways to keep them engaged.

Plus, who doesn't need to blow off a little steam in between exams? What a lovely example of striking a balance between academic rigor and modeling healthy stress relief. Well done, Ms. Turner.


This article originally appeared on 12.28,22

Education

Former teacher gets blunt about the 'denial' some parents have about their kids education

"They're more concerned about the optics…than about taking care of the child's needs."

@bodacious.bobo/TikTok

A former teacher breaks downt he "denial" some parents have about their kid's academic performance

Many kids are seriously struggling in school. According to US News, an estimated 49% of public students started off the 2022-2023 school year behind in at least one subject as last year. That’s only a small fraction better than the 50% of students behind in the previous year.

And while there are several factors contributing to this issue—recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of resources for many public schools, a teacher shortage, etc.—several educators feel that a majorly overlooked aspect is the parents' involvement, or lack thereof, in their child’s education.


Recently, one former teacher bluntly stated that it was parents' “denial” that’s to blame. Odion, who now works as a flight attendant, made her case in response to another teacher asking parents “Why don’t y’all know that your kids aren’t performing on their grade level?” on TikTok.

In the original video, the teacher (@qbthedon) laments that even though he teaches 7th grade, most of them still perform on a 4th grade level, and, despite his efforts, those kids still move onto the next grade. The worst part is that the parents don’t seem to be aware that their kids are struggling.

@qbthedon Lets chat!! #fyp #viral #teachertok ♬ original sound - QBSkiiii

This lack of awareness and engagement dates back further than the pandemic years, says Odion, who taught Pre-K and Kindergarten in 2013.

Case in point: parent-teacher conference nights, where virtually no parent would show up. Odion then recalled one father who did attend with his daughter, called Tia for the story, but would not believe that Tia did not know the full alphabet.

"In kindergarten, you have to at least know, I think it was 80% of the 52 letters, as in uppercase and lowercase, and you have to be able to identify at random. So, I'm telling the dad that she barely knows 10 letters. And he's in denial. 'Nah, you know, she knows her letters,'" Odion says.

She then acts out that night, using a makeshift flashcard like she did to test Tia.

"I literally said, 'What letter is this?'” Odion says while holding up the letter “M.” “She said something that's not it. Put another one down. 'What letter is this?' She don't know it."

teaching

"I literally said, 'What letter is this?'”

@bodacious.bobo/TikTok

Even still, the dad insisted that Tia knew her letters, then eventually blamed Tia’s older brother, who, despite only being a sixth grader himself, was apparently “supposed to teach her.”

“It is not up to a child in elementary school, or middle school, or really any of your older kids, as someone who's an older child... It is not up to the kids to teach younger kids,” Odion says in the clip.

Using another example, Odion states that a fifth grader in her class was reading at a kindergarten level and could only process basic sentences like “I see you” and “I like to see.”

In this instance, the students should be held back in order to fully learn the year’s curriculum. But Odion argues that parents fight against it “because they are more concerned about the optics of a child being held back than actually taking care of the child's needs."

parenting

"Parents, y'all can't be backseat drivers about your child's learning."

@bodacious.bobo/TikTok

In this instance, the students should be held back in order to fully learn the year’s curriculum. But Odion argues that parents fight against it “because they are more concerned about the optics of a child being held back than actually taking care of the child's needs."

While the research shows that holding kids back a grade doesn’t necessarily improve their academic performance, and that there are pros and cons either way, the biggest point Odion seems to be trying to make is that parents need to be more proactive in their child’s education.

"Parents, y'all can't be backseat drivers about your child's learning. You have to help reinforce it at home. You put a kid in front of that phone or iPad whenever they come home, it better be on YouTube, and it better be learning about letters and sight words. You can't tell me you can't read to the kid. It takes 10 minutes to read to the kid. No one is that busy,” she concludes.

Watch the full video below:

@bodacious_bobo #stitch with @QBSkiiii ♬ original sound - Odion • $OdionE

This article originally appeared on 1.5.24

@stillateacher/TikTok

Are AP kids as insufferable as they seem? Not according to Ms. C.

Think back to all those centuries ago (kidding), when you were but a wee teen in high school. Suddenly identity exploration and finding a sense of belonging become paramount. In those pivotal years, you meet other like-minded individuals with similar tastes and interests, and those people become your exclusive group of friends, otherwise known as a clique.

High school might look very different now than how it once did, but this rite of passage is still very much alive and well. Just ask Ms. C, who goes by the handle @stillateacher on TikTok.

Ms. C recently went viral for sharing a look at high school cliques from her perspective as a teacher, honing in on what she liked about teaching each clique. Her observations illuminate not only that yes, cliques persist (and with them their inherent problems) but that there’s something genuine, sweet and loveable about each one.

First on deck—the goth kids, primarily because Ms. C admits to being scared of them when she was a kid. But now, after actually connecting with a few, she insists that underneath those dark and gloomy exteriors lies genuine kindness.

“A common interaction between me and a goth kid is throughout class, they're just kind of like giving me a death glare…And then after class, they just like linger around by my desk and I'm like, ‘Hey, what's up?’ And they'll just like lightly knock over something on my desk and be like, ‘You're a really good teacher. This is my favorite class.’ and then just walk out,” she says in the clip.

So yeah, goth kids are just like cats. Misunderstood in the way they show love.

@stillateacher Something loveable about every clique #teacher #teachersoftiktok #teachertok #highschool #clique ♬ original sound - Ms. C

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Ms. C tackles theater kids next. Sure, this group has a big personality (perhaps too big for some), but Ms. C appreciates their brazen self-assurance.

“They reeeeealllly don’t care what anyone thinks,” she says, explaining that while other students add well-known pop singers to her class playlist, theater kids will shamelessly put in their favorite show tunes. Why? Because it’s “the best musical of all time!” Duh.

Plus, Ms. C commends their “really strong literacy skills from reading and memorizing all of these plays.”

For jocks, there are actually sub-cliques within the group “depending on which sport you play.” But despite each sport team having different personalities, Ms. C notes that a supportive coach makes all the difference.

“I've literally before picked up my phone and called the coach and then like be like, ‘So and so is having a tough day,’ and they come and talk to them in the hallway and the student is like immediately changed, inspired, transformed,” she says.

And while she admits that the teacher/jock relationship is often portrayed as contentious, she can’t help but commend jocks for their passion and commitment.

“A lot of the kids are just like die-hard for whatever sport they play. That keeps them coming to school consistently. It keeps them having something to do,” she says.

After her initial post received over 800,000 views, Ms. C began reviewing even more cliques. Like band kids, who are “clever,” “sarcastic," fond of outdated memes and generally “lead a fun, joyful existence.”

@stillateacher Replying to @juan pablo Suarez band kids get a 5 star review #teacher #teachersoftiktok #teachertok #highschool #clique ♬ original sound - Ms. C

Or art kids, who are “self-deprecating” but “brilliant” and “generous” and “unproblematic royalty” overall.

@stillateacher Replying to @Escape_My_Reality ♬ original sound - Ms. C

Ms. C has even advocated for the AP overachievers, who are often labeled as insufferable in their eagerness.

@stillateacher Replying to @520momo_mama I will defend overachievers to the death #teacher #teachersoftiktok #teachertok #highschool #clique ♬ original sound - Ms. C

“You all have an edge and an intensity that you can leverage to lead truly extraordinary lives,” says, before joking that they’ll “also need a lot of therapy, so many blessings to you on that journey, and the earlier you start the better.”

Requests for more clique reviews are still rolling in, asking Ms. C to cover the skater punks, the nerds, the speech and debate team, cheerleaders and dancers, …and a lot of folks have suggested choir kids. So be sure to follow Ms. C for more wholesome entertainment.

High school cliques might evolve with the different generations, but one thing that will never change is that they each have something unique to offer.


This article originally appeared on 9.18.23