The Dope Educator is back in class, and the students of Hickory Ridge Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee, couldn't be more excited.
A little over a year ago, language arts teacher David Jamison went viral after the world caught wind of the elaborate, customized handshakes he memorized for all of his 75 students. Now that in-person school is back in session, his renowned greetings have returned with a whole new flair.
Known on social media as "The Dope Educator," David has become universally loved for the special, individualized attention he gives each of his fifth-grade students every single morning.
"It increases that bond with the students," he told Good Morning America. "When you have that kind of relationship with a kid, they don't want to let you down because they know you love and care for them."
Recent studies even confirm that fun, creative greetings with students can decrease their negative, disruptive behavior while simultaneously increasing their engagement and motivation for learning.
Last year was David's third year of teaching — and handshaking — and as such, he had whittled the daily ritual down to a one-minute routine per class. But then COVID-19 struck, and teachers and students alike were forced to take an abrupt break from in-person learning.
To add insult to injury, David tested positive for the novel coronavirus right at the start of the pandemic. He said the worst part, by far, was the emotional recovery.
"The aftermath of it, after you beat it ... I still can't sleep," he said. "I'm also dealing with the thought of being away from family. To me, my students are like family."
"We're so used to being busy, having control," David added. "So now I'm trying to spend more time with God, building my spirit ... to read more about anxiety and speak more words of affirmation."
The key to his recovery was taking his own advice and claiming for himself those same affirmations he has given his students so many times.
"I was pouring into their cup, but not pouring anything into my cup," he said. "While you're pouring into other people's cups, you have to keep yours overflowing."
One cup that is constantly overflowing these days is the response he receives about his positive messages and empowerment as an educator.
"I was overwhelmed," David said when his videos first went viral. "That was the key to spread more positivity."
He's still keeping that handshake goodness going — even in the contactless era of COVID-19. Now that The Dope Educator and his students are back in class, David is more excited than ever to get back to doing what he loves.
Even with masks on and with social distancing in place, David has found a way to make every student feel just as seen, known, and thrilled to walk through the door and exchange their "handshake."
"We're so proud of David Jamison for leading the way and modeling excellence for students, especially Black boys across the district," said Dr. Joris M. Ray, the superintendent of Shelby County School.
As David explained it, "Anything we can do to motivate kids, make kids want to come to school to learn, I'm with it."
The proof is in the handshake! Watch his new-and-improved student greetings in the video below, and share this feel-good story with a friend.
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