There is a magical place where you leave feeling energized, amazed, and overwhelmed all at the same time. It is a place where people sing, dance, and have an amazing time. “Is it Orlando?” you might ask. Not Orlando, but Atlanta. Atlanta? Yes, Atlanta is the home of The Ron Clark Academy The founder, Ron Clark, has become my hero in the teaching profession.
It started simply enough when I attended a professional conference where Mr. Clark was the keynote speaker. I challenge anyone to listen to him speak and not be energized (his energy even inspired a movie starring Matthew Perry. That was appointment viewing at our house!). The man does not stop – EVER! He is like the Tasmanian devil of the education world. If he is not dancing, he is jumping on tables and chairs. He preaches passion and fun, while holding students to rigorous standards. While I do not remember what his message was that day, I was still hooked!!
Every time he publishes a new book, I have to read it. I first read The Essential 55. It is a book outlining the 55 Rules he uses in his classroom and the stories inspiring them. After reading the book, I adapted the rules to fit my classroom. Of his Essential 55, fifty of them fit my classroom and now adorn my wall. These are not rules that you sent to the principal’s office; rather, they are rules for having a successful life. His other books are similar. They are well-written tools telling about his unorthodox style of bringing out the best in everyone.
A few years after seeing him speak, I had an opportunity to attend a weekend conference at his school in Atlanta. What a professional life-altering experience! Words cannot do it justice. Mr. Clark took a warehouse in a drug-infested neighborhood and turned it into gold. You walk in and see a giant blue tube slide that is used to get from the second floor to the first (Not kidding). Each classroom is decorated with graffiti art. The language arts classroom has a VW Beetle shell for the kids to sit in and read. They have since added a library with a trampoline, a gymnasium, and many other amazing things. While the building was amazing, the material I got there was out of this world. The creative way the staff teachers is mind-boggling. I spent the entire flight home working on things to implement in my classroom the very next Monday.
Ron Clark’s influence is all over my room. It inspired my castle-like in brick backwall, and I have divided my class into house teams. At the end of each week we have a team competition to earn points. I try to bring as much energy and fun as possible to the lessons – I sometimes even climb on a table (don’t tell my principal).
The lessons I have taken away from the books and the visit have been tremendous. And even if you are not a teacher, they are still pertain to raising children. Regardless of your profession, I believe it is important to find someone or something that makes you strive to be your best. I am immeasurably better because of Ron Clark – speaking from experience.