“You’re very funny, you’re very smart … and you make everyone laugh because you’re so silly.”
Those are the kind words of Chris Ulmer, a special education teacher in Jacksonville, Fla., whose mission is to make his young students at Mainspring Academy beam with pride every single day.
Ulmer’s students have conditions ranging from autism to brain injury. His daily ritual — which includes each student standing before him to hear individualized compliments — was captured in a video (with the parents’ permission) that’s gone viral since Ulmer posted it to his Facebook page Special Books by Special Kids on Sunday. Although Ulmer posts all his videos online, this one struck a particular chord with the public, getting almost 2 million views, more than 31,00 shares, and over 12,000 likes.
Chris Ulmer with a Student of the Week. (Photo: Facebook/Special Books by Special Kids)
“I love having you in class. I think you’re very funny. I think you’re amazing,” he tells another boy in the footage.
Ulmer told ABC News that he started the tradition during his first year of teaching. In those days, he would give each day a theme, like “Sunday Funday.” But, he says, “I noticed the kids were always more motivated, happier, and better behaved on Tuesdays. So we started doing it every day.”
Ulmer and his students in a Conga line. (Photo: Facebook/Special Books by Special Kids)
He’s had the same group of kids in his class for three years and says everyone has “evolved as a family. We have an understanding that comes with time that you don’t naturally have.”
Ulmer’s tradition has also kick-started a feel-good effect: His students now praise each other, and through music therapy (which Ulmer also teaches), the kids feel more confident dancing and speaking up in class.
Academics aside, the teacher’s goal, he tells ABC News, is to boost the self-esteem of students who have long been made to feel like outcasts.
“Children learn to love or hate at an early age,” he captioned the viral video. “I think it’s time we actively work towards teaching love and acceptance.”