Two teachers are on a mission to help their students see the importance of self-love.
In a video that recently went viral, fourth graders at an Atlanta elementary school shout positive affirmations to themselves in a mirror — "I am smart!" "I am a good person!" — while their teachers cheer them on in the background.
"The idea came from a practice that I do with myself and my 5-year-old daughter," Neffiteria Acker, the teacher seen in the video holding the mirror, told TODAY Parents. "When we're on our way to school, I have her repeat affirmations to me, starting with, 'I am.' Usually I just ask her to tell me something good about herself. She'll say, 'I'm a fast eater,' or, 'I'm a fast runner.' Then I'll add to it: 'You're also really brave. So why don't you say, "I'm brave."'
"It boosts her confidence. It boosts my confidence as a woman and a mother. So I figured, why not add that into the classroom?"
Cierra Levay Broadway, the teacher who filmed the video and shared it online, said she was moved by watching the students perform the self-confidence exercise.
"It was a really great moment," she told TODAY. "I really got chills when I saw the kids and heard what they were saying for their affirmations. For a lot of them, it was their first time ever doing that."
Both teachers stressed the importance of building self-confidence at a young age.
"We get seeds planted in our minds and in our spirits every day and we don't realize how we're watering those seeds, and a lot of it is negative," Acker said. "So planting a seed of self-love is the best seed to plant, and all me and Cierra have to do is water it."
And it's especially important among the group of students they teach.
"We teach in a pretty rough neighborhood in Atlanta, and a lot of those kids don't hear that at all," Broadway said. "They hear a lot of negativity about themselves. ... It's good to plant those seeds here."
As Broadway and Acker see it, their jobs extend beyond the classroom.
"Some of these kids never leave the neighborhood," Broadway said. "We've both taken it upon ourselves to get to know the kids, build relationships and take them places, like the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I take some of them to the pool sometimes. One of them, from our first year here, he actually lived with me for about six months. I kind of unofficially adopted him. It's not just teaching them how to read and how to do math."
As for the kids themselves, they love the positive messages — and the recent attention they've gotten.
"They love it! This is the social media era," Acker said. "I had some students even from the fifth grade say, 'I saw you on TikTok!' It makes them feel proud, too — somewhat famous as well. It's their school, their teacher on the internet. It makes them feel good."
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