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The Best Viral Classroom Moments Of 2019


A dancing police officer, a founding father with a wig made from sweat socks and a physics professor in a jester cap on a pogo stick - these are just some of the many characters from American schools who blew up on social media in 2019.

Anya Kamenetz from NPR's education team has been collecting the best viral classroom moments of the year, and she's with me now. Hi, Anya.


GREENE: So is there something that makes students and teachers go viral more than other people?

KAMENETZ: (Laughter) Well, I mean, I think probably kids in general...


KAMENETZ: ...And a lot of it is just the pure joy - right? - like this one.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing) I just took an ELA test. Turns out I'm a hundred percent that smart even when...

GREENE: I know that song.

KAMENETZ: Yes. That's "Truth Hurts" by Lizzo in the styles of Dorothy Mallari's second-graders at Los Medanos Elementary School in the California Bay Area. And this video got 1.3 million views on Twitter. Lizzo herself gave them a shoutout after they made it up to "Good Morning America."

GREENE: Oh, that's awesome. So I guess one question I have if we're talking about classroom moments - like, do some of these actually have something to do with teaching and learning?

KAMENETZ: Yes, actually. This one was totally delightful. It got 26 million views. It's a 69-year-old physics professor. And he's white-haired, you know, and he just doing all kinds of stunts in the classroom. He's racing across the room.


DAVID WRIGHT: One, two, three.

GREENE: Is this pogo stick guy?

KAMENETZ: This is the pogo stick guy...


KAMENETZ: ...David Wright at Tidewater Community College. And we actually got him to break it down for us what he's doing here.

WRIGHT: We had a radar gun. We were measuring what my speed was. The bed of nails illustrates the principle of pressure. And then we - the pogo stick, illustrating the principle of freefall.

GREENE: Wow. OK. I had a cool physics teacher in high school, but not this cool.

KAMENETZ: He's been with this college since they opened their doors in 1974. And his love for his subject is just so infectious, as well as his love for his students, you know? And one of his students, Erica Church, is the one who shot the video throughout the semester. She's 18. She's studying to become an ultrasound technician. And these were her thoughts.

ERICA CHURCH: I think it just shows that, like, learning can be so much more than what is - kind of has been or stereotypically has been. Like, it doesn't always have to be just PowerPoint, some boring - it can be fun.

KAMENETZ: She got an A, by the way.

GREENE: On the video project. Oh, good.

KAMENETZ: Oh, no, on the class.

GREENE: Oh, she got an A in the class overall. That's great.

KAMENETZ: Her first physics class. Yeah.

GREENE: Awesome. Keep this coming. I need more.

KAMENETZ: (Laughter) OK. So TikTok, David...


KAMENETZ: Have you heard of it?

GREENE: I have.

KAMENETZ: OK. So it's probably the social network of the year. It's Chinese-owned. It's got 1.5 billion downloads. And thanks to a viral Twitter thread, a lot of people found out that one thing the teens are using the network for is to post mini essays on world history.

GREENE: Really - on TikTok?

KAMENETZ: Yeah. I did not see this coming. But they're actually taking on pretty serious topics. So this video is captioned, natives minding their business, and then, thousands of European settlers. And this is the soundtrack.


YUNGTUBESOCK: (Singing) Oh, no. I got a disease, walking round through your neighborhood, spreading all my fleas.

GREENE: This is amazing.

KAMENETZ: There's so many of them. It's out of control. And I got another perspective on this from Tara Conley. She's a new media scholar at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

TARA CONLEY: They're taking some of these serious, controversial historical issues and spinning it, but doing in a way that is critical and satirical but also makes a valid statement about the history of this country, especially when it comes to colonialism and race.

KAMENETZ: So she says that students are really bringing history to life using this new medium.

GREENE: That's really cool. So Anya, you've looked through a bunch of these. Is there one that kind of stands out and has stayed with you?

KAMENETZ: There is, David, and it's pretty different from the stuff we've been talking about so far. But it just - it's not gone out of my head since I've seen it. So there's no sound. It's actually a piece of surveillance video from Parkrose High School in Portland, Ore. And if you watch it, it shows a football coach and security guard, Keanon Lowe, and he's backing out of a classroom into the hallway with a student in a black trench coat.

And Lowe has a shotgun in one hand, which he hands off to somebody else. And then he just wraps the boy up in an embrace. And they stay like that for 40 seconds, just hugging. And the student, you know - he looks like he's crying. And a court later found that he was struggling with a suicidal episode. He didn't intend to hurt anyone else other than himself.

GREENE: Oh, my. That's really powerful.

KAMENETZ: To me, David, it just shows how hard all the people in our schools are working every day to make a difference in the lives of children.

GREENE: That's Anya Kamenetz from NPR's education team. Anya, thanks so much for all this.

KAMENETZ: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR NewsEducation
Anya Kamenetz is an education correspondent at NPR. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning. Since then the NPR Ed team has won a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation, and a 2015 National Award for Education Reporting for the multimedia national collaboration, the Grad Rates project.