We had barely posted the Dear Teacher video when people in countries from every continent in the world started viewing and sharing it at lightening speed. There’d be posts from Lebanon, Malaysia, Australia, Bulgaria, Iceland, Panama, Peru, along with countries (I confess) I had to google just to learn where they appeared on the map.
But it wasn’t only the sheer number of countries or views or shares that threw me off balance. It was the reaction and raw emotions that people kept expressing in their comments—and that no matter where people lived in the world, their posts were remarkably similar.
For example, while the kids in the video were from San Diego, California, people everywhere still somehow “saw” their own son or daughter or sister or brother or student or friend or relative—and many times, themselves—in that footage.
And it didn’t matter from what corner of the world people shared the video. People kept urging—actually often pleading—others to also watch and truly “listen” to what the kids were saying (such posts often ended with a string of exclamation marks!!!!). It also didn’t matter whether a comment was from a teacher, principal, school board member, parent, grandparent, or therapist—male or female, young or old. Time and time again, people wrote how the video made them tear up, cry, even sob, or how it pulled at their heart, broke their heart, opened their heart, melted their heart, spoke to their heart.
As I was wading through thousands of comments, an undeniable theme started to emerge. And then, suddenly the reason this very short video was resonating with literally millions of people was staring me in the face. Yes, we live in diverse places, speak different languages, and attend many kinds of schools. But we all are the same in that we each just want to be heard, understood, and appreciated. That truly was the “heart” behind the never-ending comments.
But I decided to write this post to share more than just that reflection. Many people also noted that it took true courage for the kids to share their thoughts and thanked them for voicing what they themselves had always wanted to say—but never thought they could.
So, it appeared that a less-than-two-minute video managed to break through the stigma that often prevents us from talking about our “mental” health (noting we can talk about our physical health all day long). Somehow, a small group of kids made it safe for thousands of people to open up and now share their own thoughts and experiences . . . by the way of a Facebook video comment. And that, in itself, was incredible.
But since the Dear Teacher video needed to be short, here’s what wasn’t noted. While each child in that video has his or her own “back” story, with different challenges and struggles, they all have something in common. Each has already learned how the brain works and has applied that knowledge to his or her daily life. And these kids would be the first to tell you it was those specific experiences that then made it easy for them to “go brave” and speak up in the video.
The Dear Teacher video also didn’t mention that it first appeared on a multimedia site that Brain Highways specifically created for the families of CAPS (Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Services) at Rady Children’s Hospital. On this site, we wanted to make it possible for not only kids, but also moms, dads, sisters, and brothers to learn how our brains may be wired differently, how every brain responds to stress, how to keep a brain calm and alert, and how to reset the brain once it “thinks” there’s a threat. Such information can be very powerful and then truly makes it easier for all of us to show our innate awesomeness.
And that’s why after reading so many people’s reactions to the Dear Teacher video, I now found myself wanting to give others—beyond just the families at Rady Children’s Hospital—a chance to access those same videos, audios, and handouts.
So, here’s how we can make that happen. Since this is a private site, we do need to ask interested people to first email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, using the subject header: Login Info. After we receive that, we’ll send you the url, user name, and password to log onto that site—but that’s it! You’ll then be able to access everything.
However, there was still another reason I wanted to write this post. Many people commented that they didn’t think the letter should have been addressed to teachers. Rather, such people thought it should have been a Dear Principal, Dear Superintendent, Dear Headmaster, Dear Policy Maker letter.
Many even saw the video’s message as going beyond the field of education, saying the letter could have just as easily started with Dear Parents, Dear Grandparents, Dear Football Coach, Dear Karate Instructor, Dear Therapist, Dear Employer, Dear Clergy, (and my favorite) Dear Actually All of Us.
But why not go with that last suggestion? What if we did each accept a “Dear Actually All of Us” letter? Think how many doors that might open so that everyone could be heard—without judgment—which might then springboard creative solutions that truly honor all of us.
Not realistic, you think? Well, I don’t agree. Turns out some very young kids have already begun that conversation—among no less than 17 million people, worldwide–with just a single letter of a mere 238 words.