Florida Teacher Starts Each Day Complimenting Students One by One

If you enjoy this teacher and his ideas, you can go and like “Special Books by Special Kids” and support the project.

In a video posted to Facebook that’s been shared more than 8,000 times since it was posted on Sunday, Ulmer takes the time to pay several compliments to each and every one of the eight students in his classroom at Mainspring Academy in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I love having you in my class. I think you’re very funny. You’re a great soccer player. Everyone in here loves you,” Ulmer says to the kids as they each take their turn standing in front of the class, facing Ulmer.

Ulmer said he’s been posting videos — with the kids’ parents’ permission — almost every day, but this one, which he “spent about 10 minutes editing,” has really resonated with the public. “I actually didn’t think a whole lot about this one before posting it. It’s just something we do.”

Ulmer’s Facebook page, Special Books by Special Kids, was created because he has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get a book published about the kids. “I have 50 rejection letters on my fridge to keep me motivated,” he said. The book focuses on the story of each of the kids in his classroom and is collaboratively told by the child, his or her parents, and from Ulmer’s perspective as their teacher.

In classrooms across the country, the school day almost always starts off with some kind of routine. Announcements, a run-through of the day’s calendar or maybe the Pledge of Allegiance.



Food Trucks Make Healthy School Lunches a Little More Appealing

“Food trucks are a great addition to school food service—both from a way to engage the older kids and a way to engage the community,” says Ann Cooper, the director of food services at Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District. “It’s part of a great overall marketing strategy.”

Last year, Boulder Valley became one of the first districts in the U.S. to start serving school lunches at a food truck during the academic year. The vehicle, which has been attractively styled as a cross between a rustic farmhouse and a milk truck, was funded by a $75,000 grant from Whole Foods Market.

Cooper says that though the truck mostly serves the same food as the cafeteria and the prices are identical, the students find the truck food more appealing.

“Cafeteria participation has been up and so is the number of kids eating at the food truck,” she says. “So we’re getting a demographic that never [ate at] the cafeteria before … Kids who walked off campus are now eating at the food truck.”

Getting high-school students to embrace is an age-old battle. And when it comes to lunch, many eschew their school cafeteria in favor of eating off-campus, where healthy choices don’t always abound.

Where Are The Cool Rap Songs About Math? Within Students

“He makes everything fun like a game,” says one student. “That really helps us understand how everything works.”

Math teachers assign all kinds of activities to apply academic skills to the real world. At Willard Middle School in Berkeley, California, Robert MacCarthy (Mr. Mac) has made creating rap songs part of the algebra curriculum to tap into the interests of the students. In the SoulPancake video here, he describes what’s important to middle school students and the benefits of applying those interests to academic skills. Most importantly, the kids seem to enjoy this side of their math course.

“He makes everything fun like a game,” says one student. “That really helps us understand how everything works.”

Curated from Where Are The Cool Rap Songs About Math? Within Students | MindShift | KQED News

How TV Can Make Kids Better Readers



Is technology the best thing that ever happened to education? Or a silent killer of children’s attention spans and love of learning?

Tap, Click, Read
Tap, Click, Read
Growing Readers in a World of Screens
by Lisa Guernsey and Michael H. Levine

Paperback, 224 pages purchase
More on this book:
NPR reviews, interviews and more
Tap, Click, Read is a new book out this week that attempts to offer a third alternative. It tells the stories of educators and parents who are trying to develop media, and ways of interacting with that media, that encourage literacy and critical thinking skills in young children, while reducing inequity.

Lisa Guernsey is the author of Screen Time and director of the Early Education Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project at New America, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; her coauthor is Michael Levine, founding director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop in New York City, which focuses on educational media.

A Miracle on Marquez Avenue

This is FreshSchools, so why not talk about a FRESH teaching perspective?


Meet Mr. Jeffrey Lantos, a fifth grade teacher at Marquez Elementary in Pacific Palisades.

Mr. Lantos, or Mr. L, as his students call him, is an icon (read: rock star) at the school. Sometimes, even in the mire and mandates that are LAUSD, miracles happen.

It was a miracle

               In Philadelphia

                             It was a miracle, it’s true

                                                            Fifty five men who sat right here,

                                                                                   knew what they had to do.

–from Miracle in Philadelphia, music by Bill Augustine, lyrics by Jeff Lantos.

Jeff Lantos is that miracle.



As I wrote in one of my first blogs for FreshSchools, the turnover rate for Principals is disturbingly high.  Many don’t even make it past two years.  Being a parent, I’ve heard grumbles about the “administration” for years in various schools.  I had my own personal gripe last year which brought me to my knees.  I decided I wanted to know what it’s like on the other side.  So, I interviewed our brand new principal at my children’s elementary school.  His name is Dr. Alberto Hananel and he is a lovely, soft- spoken man who made time for me so I could get a feel for what it’s like at the top.

My first question for him is whether a kid should be Principal for the day.

“Absolutely.  I don’t have a problem with that.  If it’s for a fundraiser and it builds community spirit.  Why not?  But I’d have to warn the student, it can be lonely at the top.”

He smiles.  Lonely at the top, people.

“Most folks do not realize what it takes to be Principal.  Most of the time, it’s exhausting.”

Dr. Hananel goes on to say that principals have to deal with a multitude of characters and personalities from parents, teachers, students and even neighbors.

“There’s this neighbor who is relentless.  She complains about the carpool situation, the noise, the parents who park partially on the lip of her driveway. She calls daily.”



Halloween is like Anchovy Pizza. You love it or hate it. Loren Schmalle loves it.

He’s one of those UBER parents who every year steps up and does the impossible—he mounts a massive Halloween Festival at our local public school. The mantle was handed down to him from Kurt Bierschenk, his Halloween mentor

Image courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

Image courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

and fellow Halloween enthusiast. Kurt was the original brain child of the festival and Loren says it would be nothing without his mad genius. Neither man ever got a penny for all their hard work. It is a true labor of love. All the moneys collected goes towards the much starved school fund.

It was Kurt’s idea to build up the Halloween fever. Every Monday in October, there is a sighting at the school. One week, it’s a witch, crashed high up into the telephone pole. (more…)

Volunteers Rule!

Summer keeps getting shorter. The time to relax with the kids, unwind and disconnect is over before you need to heat the pool.   For most of us, back to school means the loss of precious family time. However, it may also mean returning Freshschools Volunteers make schools a better place for students and  teachersto a comforting routine and increased freedom. For some of us, it means getting those TB shots and gearing up for volunteer duties.

Let’s get real, people. Why does it seem as if the same five people do all the volunteering in school? The same faces show up year after year to bake cookies for the school fundraiser, drive kids to a class field trip and get their hands dirty for the garden greening project. You can also bet these are the same folk who agree to be room parents and fill-in aides. Do they just have a different code system than the rest of us? In Corporate America, there are fiduciary duties by officers to the shareholders of the corporation. Aren’t we all officers in the corporation that is our family and isn’t one aspect of our corporation’s business the education of our children? Shouldn’t we be taking on our fiduciary duties?