Salt Lake City school teacher, John Arthur, is one of four finalists for national teacher of the year. Arthur, who teachers at Meadowlark Elementary School, said during his first year of teaching, his sixth grade students really wanted to make a Youtube video.
With Arthur's help, the class did a remake of the popular One Direction song, "Story Of My Life," and rewrote the lyrics to talk about how they had learned to solve story problems in math. The tradition of the videos continued and in recent years, Arthur and his students have focused more on social issues.
“When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and made his comment about folks from Mexico being murderers and rapists my students heard this, and they took it incredibly personally," Arthur said. "The majority of the students here at our school are Latino."
Arthur said part of the sixth grade curriculum is paying attention to what’s going on in the world. When something strikes a chord with a student he helps them make a video about it.
“My kids are currently in the process of writing the poem and recording their lines about the difference between failure and success," he said. "Given the historic situation we're facing, they feel like they've been hated. They feel like people are talking about them, like they're failing at school and failing in life. And they want to respond, they want to just make sure that everybody understands that in a time of crisis, if you're surviving, you are winning."
Arthur said it’s sometimes difficult to not take his students' worries and problems home with him. As he watches them struggle, he wants to fix those things. But he said he has learned his job is not to save them, but to teach them to save themselves.
And according to Arthur, this is what his students are doing. The first students he taught are now seniors in highschool and Arthur said he finds inspiration as he watches them become advocates who lead marches, give speeches and participate in their communities.