Far too many frightening things happen in our world, and recent violent events weigh heavy on my heart. These events cause concern about what the future will bring for not just the world but for my own children. It also makes me wonder what, if anything, I should tell them about the harsh stories in the news.
One afternoon I was out running errands with my oldest son, and checked my phone after pulling into a parking space. I saw a news alert that the number of dead from a horrifying attack had just been raised. Without thinking about it, an “OH NO!” escaped my lips. Then I sat in stunned silence, overwhelmed with worry about the state of our broken world. The world my children will inherit.
From the backseat I heard a small, concerned voice. “What is it, Mommy?”
I had a choice to make. Part of me wanted him to stay innocent and pure. To keep believing in the goodness of his fellow human beings. The other part of me wanted him to know that there is evil out there and he must be on guard against it. Should I keep protecting him from the harsh realities of this world we live in, or was he old enough to understand?
I took a deep breath, and began speaking with a shaky voice, Continue reading
On March 21 we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. We celebrate uniqueness and joy and individuality. We strive for acceptance and respect for a group of people who are far too often demeaned, underestimated, and marginalized. Today I also celebrate Kaitlyn, whose far too brief time on this earth left a light that still shines brightly.
Kaitlyn passed away in December, 2013 after a brief battle with illness. She had Moyamoya disease, a little-known condition that can affect individuals with Down Syndrome. Her loved ones were stunned with grief, and it sent a shockwave through the local community. It seemed inconceivable that her life was taken so early. She was only 15 years old.
Kaitlyn had a lot to teach us about living and loving. She lived enthusiastically and joyfully. She loved unconditionally and freely without expectations or conditions.
Among her favorite things were the color pink, Disney movies, music, dancing, and her family. She showed those around her that true beauty lies in being, as her mother so eloquently put it, “Perfectly imperfect.”
Here is a shorter version of our conversation with Christopher Ulmer, the well-known exceptional education teacher who created the page “Special Books by Special Kids.” Basically this is the gag reel, and it is less than three minutes of Mr. Chris joking around with the Little Ninja. There is an eyeball crossing contest and the famous Noodle Dog even makes an appearance. It was fun to see firsthand how much Chris enjoys interacting with children.
To see the longer version and to read a recap of our entire conversation you can visit the previous post: Our Talk with Christopher Ulmer of Special Books by Special Kids: A Seriously Not Boring Interview. While we talked Chris described his students with a great deal of pride, saying, “The children in my class are some of the most honest, pure and happy kids in the world. They see things how they really are. They don’t see all the excess stuff… and I think if we all saw things that way the world would be a better place.” In that post you can learn more about Chris’s teaching philosophy and why he thinks the SBSK message is so important.
Thanks again for talking with us, Mr. Chris, and it was nice to “meet” you!
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My youngest son and I recently had the opportunity to talk via Skype with Christopher Ulmer, aka “Mr. Chris,” of Special Books by Special Kids. Usually Chris interviews other people, so we thought it would be fun to turn the tables and be the ones asking the questions to learn more about him and his students. For those of you who may not know who he is, Chris is an exceptional education teacher in Florida. His unique and affirming teaching style as well as his extraordinary class of students has captured the hearts of many and become a viral sensation. The first video to gain widespread attention showcased his “compliment time” with the students at the start of each school day, and it was featured first at “The Mighty” and then in an article on ABC News. From there the message spread all over the mainstream media, reaching far beyond the typical “Awareness” circles, and Chris even made an appearance on Rachel Ray’s television show. The messages from Mr. Chris and his students continue to spread all over the internet, and the page has even been mentioned on unexpected sites like MTV, prompting Ashton Kutcher to say, “Mr. Chris, you’re a great teacher.”
Two videos from our conversation are embedded at the bottom of this post. In the first video he talks with my youngest son (his older brother decided not to participate because this isn’t his kind of thing 😉 ). Noodle Dog makes an appearance, there is some Minecraft talk in the middle, and an eyeball crossing contest at the end. Chris described his teaching philosophy and what influenced his decision to become an exceptional education teacher. I was also finally able to ask something I have long wondered about; it seems, when watching the SBSK videos, that teaching in a private school setting allows a level of flexibility in the classroom that wouldn’t be able to occur in a public school setting (for many reasons). He addresses that, as well as whether or not they have any sort of standardized testing. He also recalls an excellent and entertaining musical concert performed by his students, and all the work that went into it. You will have to watch the video to hear the fun story.
Update: here is the short “highlights” version of just the silly parts. 🙂