Teaching is arguably one of the most important jobs in our society. Those individuals are tasked with helping the children of the world reach their full potential, but unsurprisingly that’s not always easy. Chen Miller, a teacher in Israel, can certainly relate to that, after a dramatic incident with a disruptive boy in her classroom.
Speaking to her colleagues in Tel Aviv, Israel, during an education conference in 2016, Miller gave a speech that was eventually uploaded to social media. Soul Mama, a very popular Facebook page, posted the video on December 5, 2016, but few could’ve predicted the massive response it provoked. Incredibly, the teacher’s talk has earned more than 50 million views and more than 900,000 shares online.
As for the page itself, Soul Mama is the product of an ambitious organization looking to spread important messages across the U.S. The Israel Project, also known as TIP, is an American educational company tasked with informing the public and press with what’s happening in the Middle East. One of its schemes, named the Future Media Project, created the Soul Mama Facebook page.
Soul Mama boasts more than 273,000 followers on Facebook, but of all of the posts on its page, Miller’s speech remains the most popular. Pinned at the top of its timeline, the teacher’s heartfelt story clearly still resonates with social media users and TIP’s overall ideals. Moreover, her words may be equally important to parents and those working in the teaching system.
On this occasion, Miller had a tale to tell of something that happened in the classroom. “In my first year of working in the education system, I entered a grade two classroom,” Miller began. “In the center of the room, on a chair, sat a little boy with big eyes. He cursed and spat and screamed… he looked at me and I looked at him.”
While many teachers could likely relate to similar situations with disruptive children, they will probably each have different ways of dealing with it. Some may respond in an aggressive manner, punishing their student, whereas others might try a softer approach to calm things down. Although Miller went with the latter option, few could’ve predicted what she was eventually to say.
“I went closer and whispered to him, ‘I know you have a big heart,’” Miller recalled. “‘I know that you’re clever, I know that you’re a good boy.’ In front of the whole class he said, ‘Stupid teacher, you don’t know anything…I’m a disturbed boy. Everyone knows I’m disturbed.’”
“‘The teachers say I’m disturbed,’” she continued. “‘The headmaster says I’m disturbed. Even my parents say I’m disturbed.’” Yet despite those troubling words, Miller reiterated her optimistic opinion. “‘You have a big heart, you’re clever and I know you’re a good boy,’” she told her colleagues in Tel Aviv.
However, Miller’s words failed to have the calming influence she might have desired, as the boy ran out of class. The next week though, she had another chance to get through to him. Her story continued with another effort. “The second week, when I entered the class, it was the same script – cursing, screaming, spitting,” the teacher recalled.
“I took a deep breath,” she continued. “I went close to him and whispered, ‘You have a big heart, you’re clever and I know you’re a good boy.’” While some teachers might have started to lose hope at this point, something changed when Miller walked into her classroom one week later.
“The third week when I entered the class, a little seat was waiting next to my seat,” Miller said. “And on that little seat sat a little boy with big eyes. That day he chose me to be his teacher.” Although her persistently optimistic outlook had had a profound effect on the child, there was a bit more to it. She would go on to reveal something that in turn elevated her story to incredible heights.
“Towards the end of the year he asked me how I know that children are good,” Miller recalled. “I told him I had a secret. Until fifth grade I didn’t know how to read and write. I couldn’t connect numbers together. I thought I was stupid, that I had a broken brain. I was sure that nothing good would come out of me.”
At that point, Miller’s speech hit a passionate crescendo, as her secret was truly revealed. “Me, Chen Miller, student of the special needs class… I am a teacher in Israel,” she said. “Me, the one that the system was ready to give up on more than once. I’m now in the system to change it, to show that it can be done differently.”
With her words ringing in the ears of her colleagues, the message behind Miller’s story became even clearer. “Teachers, headmasters, educators, your thoughts and the words that you use about a child will at some stage become the thoughts and words that the child thinks about himself,” she said.
“‘I won’t succeed, nothing good will become of me, I am incapable, I’m lazy, I can’t,’” Miller concluded. “There is no child that can’t, only a child that can! Remember always that education is the forming of impressions on souls.”
Unsurprisingly, the video continued to grow in popularity after its initial upload on the Soul Mama page. Miller’s speech was also posted on YouTube by the user H. David on December 6, 2016, earning more than 26,000 views and more than 200 likes. Meanwhile, a very famous figure from Israel voiced her support later that month.
Hollywood actress Gal Gadot took to Twitter to praise her countrywoman on December 14, 2016. “Chen Miller is an extraordinary teacher in Israel,” the tweet read. “Hear her show how words can shift a child’s self image.” That post earned more than 100 retweets and more than 850 likes, adding to what was already a massive viral hit.
As former teacher Joanna Valente said on Kveller, “Without a doubt … a little bit of encouragement goes a long way.” Valente bolstered Miller’s message, “While it may seem like common sense, it’s especially important during formative experiences, as young kids and teens are still forming their identities.”
The impact from Miller’s video can be seen in the commenters on the post. Among the thousands who shared their feelings, Silvanna Lainez said, “If it wasn’t for the teachers that believed in me I don’t know what would’ve happened with my education.” And many other commenters shared their stories of how being treated as disruptive damaged not only their education but also their chances in life.
Miller’s story shows that goodwill from those in positions of power in the education system can help kids in desperate need of it. Moreover, she showed that she could turn her own experience to the good and use it to touch this difficult child.