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Making Emma Happy: The Power of Social Media to Do Good (by Nick Provenzano)

Recently I saw a Facebook post from friend and amazing educator Nick Provenzano (aka The Nerdy Teacher). He was trying to leverage social media for good - to benefit one of his students. I joined the hordes of educators who responded enthusiastically, rallying their students to support his. The end result was so inspiring that I asked him to write a guest post for this blog. Being the generous soul that Nick is, he agreed and shared the incredible story below. 


aboutme_zps98dfb17e.pngGuest Post By: Nick Provenzano 

(photo from his blog, The Nerdy Teacher)

Social Media can be a tough place at times. There are plenty of stories of students being bullied or people trolling others. I'm happy to be able to share a story that is simply about making a student happy.

For my student Emma, it has been a very long year. She has been out of school for months. She has been dealing with Dysautonomia. This complicated illness has sent her to doctors all around country in the hopes of making her life a little bit better. She is a hardworking student and missing school has been very tough for her. My students that shared 6th Hour with her wanted to do something nice for Emma because she had been very down lately. Fighting an illness for months can be exhausting and Emma needed a pick me up. Leave it to students to come up with a plan to make another student smile.

One of Emma's friends came to me as asked if the class could send her a message to cheer her up. After talking, we decided that a lip dub to Parrell's "Happy" would be a fun way to make Emma smile. Two students spent the night choreographing the entire song and came to class the next day to teach it to the students and record it. The students came to class prepared to have fun and be silly. I was asked to see if any of my friends on Twitter and Facebook would be interested in making their own video for Emma. The response blew everyone away.

Our class received videos from across the state and around the world. Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Canada, and even as far away as Australia submitted videos for Emma. As a class, we were overwhelmed at the response. Students and teachers took time out of their schedules to create a video for a student they have never met. What we thought might be a fun video to share with an student not feeling well had turned into a testament to the power of the Internet in bringing communities together.

There are still plenty of educators that fear social media. It is not the tools; it is how they are used. In this instance with Emma, we used the tools to connect with others and create something beautiful. We had no idea what was really going to happen or if anyone was going to respond, but that didn't stop us from trying to do something special for a student that is part of our family. Here is what Emma had to say after watching the videos,

"That was sooooooo sweet!! I started crying!! It made my day! (The videos) definitely made me so happy. That was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me!!"

Emma did not just receive a link to the compilation video, we sent her a link to every video that was submitted. To add to the happiness, students from others schools sent letters of encouragement to Emma. She received personalized cards all the way from Australia. Her mom, Mary, shared her thoughts on this whole projects in an email,

"The whole experience has been so hard on all of us that love Emma. I passed the link to her grandparents, aunts and uncles and it has made everyone so happy! Every time I watch it, I get all teary. I asked Emma's two younger sisters (9 and 6) how it made them feel. They both said, 'Happy!!' The video definitely achieved what the kids set out to accomplish over and over again!"

As educators, it can be easy to forget that the students in our class have lives and that there are outside influences that impact who they are. It would have been easy to forget Emma as a student in my class and move forward with daily lessons. Students in class could have done the same. However, students care more about the well being of their peers more than adults give them credit. Social Media has the power to bring people together and it is important that teachers embrace this power and teach students how to harness it to do good things.  There are many dark corners of the Internet, but it is our job as educators to show students how to shine the light and use Social Media to do good things. My students brought a smile to Emma's face. How are you going to use Social Media to make a difference?

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