Doing a talk with over 1800 students recently, I went back and forth about encouraging such a large group of students to use a hashtag. This is something I do all of the time with educators, but many students are savvy with technology, but not necessarily see the benefit for learning. Since the focus was on using social media to make a positive difference, I decided that it only made sense to promote a hashtag, and in the last minute, I decided to use one. Before I shared it with the students, I said to them, “I trust you and I want you to be successful, so please use this in appropriate ways.”
I started my talk, and as I do often, the first time I showed a video, I checked the hashtag and my mentions. This is a great way to see what students are learning/sharing/thinking, but also a way to connect with an audience. The first tweet that I saw was directed at me and extremely inappropriate. This was followed by two more.
I was devastated.
My heart sank and since I just speak from the heart, I felt that my talk could have went in a more negative direction. I caught my breath, and by the end of the video, I continued to speak. I did make mention about how one little compliment can make someone’s day, and one negative can ruin it. Then I asked the students, what would you rather do?
So then I saw one amazing tweet thanking me for being there and complimenting my presentation style. I called out that student’s name, and said, “You have no idea how much of an impact you made on me by sharing that. Thank you.”
Then another student complimented me.
And it went on and on and on.
And it started from that one young man’s tweet.
By shining the light and giving the attention to the person that did something positive, kindness went viral in the room, and honestly, caught on the rest of the day. In fact, by the end when I took questions, one student asked me, “Can I give you a hug?”
I could have easily shut everything down, but that wouldn’t have made the room better, or myself. By focusing on what kids can do to make a difference, and saying, “I trust you”, the tide in the room changed quickly.
So what did I learn that day?
We need to make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear.
I ended the day telling students, you don’t have to wait until you’re out of school to change the world. Go lead today.
Thank you to the one student that made a ripple effect of positivity in the room, that not only impacted me, but led the way for others.