She called it The Positivity Project.
Jamie McSparin, who runs a program for at-risk students at Oak Park High School in the North Kansas City School District, challenged her fellow teachers last month to choose students and tell them how important, inspiring and appreciated they are.
Armed with a Kodak point-and-shoot camera, McSparin filmed about 50 teachers complimenting individual students.
The students’ wide range of reactions roll out one by one in a 6-minute video.
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Shock. Disbelief. Pure joy.
Junior Sarah Haler looks confused at first when teacher Tyler McSparin — who happens to be Jamie McSparrin’s husband and Oak Park colleague — tells her that she inspires him to come to work every day.
“Ohhhhh,” Sarah says, grinning.
“Oh, this is going to make me cry,” Tyler says from behind the camera.
Tyler posted the video to YouTube and on his Facebook page on Monday. “It’s pretty powerful to see how our words can affect students!!” he wrote on the Facebook post.
By Wednesday, the video had been viewed more than 5 million times.
“I had no idea, never in a million years, that it would have exploded like it did,” Jamie McSparin said.
She got the idea from a professional development seminar over the summer that encouraged teachers to think positively, to change how they think of themselves and others “instead of everything being negative,” she said.
She put her spin on a similar project from another school district and decided to prepare a video to share with teachers in October, an often gloomy month when the new-school-year hype has waned, days grow shorter, and the cold and flu season arrives, she said.
“The whole point was to make October better, to remind teachers this is why we’re here,” said McSparin, 28, a teacher of six years who is in her third year at Oak Park.
Over a three-week span in September, she ambushed teachers during their planning periods.
I want you to think of a student who inspires you to come to work, she told them.
We’re going to go find them, right now, pull them out of class, and you’re going to tell them why they inspire you, she instructed. She filmed most of the interactions.
She was struck and bothered by how every single student they pulled out of class — whether at-risk or high-achieving — thought they were in trouble.
“We need to change that,” she said. “Not every interaction with a teacher has to be a negative one.”
The video went viral thanks to a friend who shared it with a friend who works for “Good Morning America.” ABC News picked up the video, too. She’s been getting emails from teachers from across the country over the last two days.
“If just half of these people stay positive,” she said, “that’s a lot of positive out there.”