"You're very funny. You're very smart. You do a great job every day. You make everyone laugh because you're so silly."
What would life be like if someone started your day with compliments every morning?
That's how Chris Ulmer starts his special education class in Jacksonville, Florida, with 10 minutes of telling each student what they are good at and why he appreciates them.
Ulmer "reached a boiling point" seven months ago after realizing how often people with special needs are overlooked.
"As a special education teacher I have students with a variety of conditions but they all share one common element: they are pure," Ulmer wrote in an open letter on his Facebook page "Special Books by Special Kids." "They represent love and everything that is right in this world. But yet, it seemed as if 99 per cent 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 'light post.'"
Wanting his students to be heard, Ulmer reached out to their parents and asked to start a class blog that openly discussed each child's diagnosis.
"These children deserve to be heard, loved and appreciated," wrote Ulmer. "The world needs to understand that in many ways, the children have it right. We need to learn from them."
Since then the teacher has been working with the children putting together blog posts and videos, all at a personal expense of $600 a month. Recently, one of Ulmer's videos went viral, which prompted him to write the open letter.
The video has been watched more than a million times and won many hearts.
"I'm crying! I wish I had just one teacher who did this," wrote one Facebook user. "Thank you for modeling this positive, affirming behaviour with your students!"
"Now this is what children need! Building their self esteem through love and appreciation... Giving them the space to be themselves and praised and rewarded for all their good qualities," wrote another.
Ulmer couldn't be happier that his students are reaching such a large audience: "Please, for the sake of my students and individuals with special needs everywhere...make this spread around the world. Follow our journey. Take a few minutes each day to understand my students and friends. We are all different but we are all in this together."
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