My children had a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Lotano, who paraphrased Maya Angelou to us parents at every annual school Open House. She reminded us that, “Children will forget what you said, children will forget what you did, but children will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s a thought that has stuck with me for years.
It’s obviously a lesson that Chris Ulmer, a special education teacher at Mainspring Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, also takes to heart. Mr. Chris (as he prefers his students call him) starts every school day for his class of eight students by making them feel loved. He spends ten minutes complimenting them, taking time to directly address each child individually. He posted a video of this morning session on his Facebook page, Special Books by Special Kids, and it’s been viewed nearly 36 million times (on his page and in an ABC News story about it) in two days.
His students are all in his class for different reasons – autism, speech apraxia, brain injury, and more – but the respect and compliments he gives them focuses solely on their positive attributes and abilities. His is a model of positive, affirmative behavior and, in the video, Mr. Chris shares that the students now “praise each other”, “never insult one another” and “actively work towards helping each other.” They have learned from his example, and grown from it. “I have seen their confidence and self-worth skyrocket,” he writes in the video.
Shortly after his video went viral, Mr. Chris posted a letter to the class Facebook page, which partly reads:
“I am the teacher praising his students in the recent viral video. This letter is incredibly hard for me to write as I like to keep the spotlight on my students, but I believe this is an extraordinary opportunity that I cannot pass up.
I write this letter early in the morning with a heavy heart and little sleep the past few days so please excuse any errors.
Seven months ago I reached a boiling point. As a special education teacher I have students with a variety of conditions but they all share one common element; they are pure. They represent love and everything that is right in this world. But yet, it seemed as if 99% of society could not see this. One parent even told me that their greatest fear was passing away and leaving their child homeless, wondering the streets and being ignored as if they were a “lightpost”.
I knew I had to do something. I called together the parents of my students and proposed the idea of starting a class blog that openly discussed each diagnosis with access to the children. I fully was aware that this was unheard of and could cause complications for my career. I did not care. These children deserve to be heard, loved and appreciated. The world needs to understand that in many ways, the children have it right. We need to learn from them.
We are all different but we are all in this together.
I love you all,
Whether they remember what exactly he said or what exactly he did, there’s no doubt that these kids will never forget how Mr. Chris made them feel.
You, sir, are 100% Ausome™.
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