I just got back on Monday from the Ron Clark Academy! It was my first time to go there BUT I had been following Ron Clark's mission since 2000. I also have been following Kim Bearden for several years as well. I knew I loved the revolution those two amazing educators were creating but I never thought I would have the opportunity to go to their school. Never even crossed my mind...until this year. I decided I HAD to go. I HAD to make it happen. I presented a proposal to my PTA requesting funding and they funded everything! I signed up to go to the National Educator's Conference and then I waited very impatiently for the day to finally arrive. When it did, I felt as though I was dreaming. A bloggy buddy of mine (not from the same school but from the same district) went with me. Suzy of On The Go Teacher Mama was my roomy.
We barely stopped talking the entire time we were there. So much information and so much inspiration. How would we ever convey the information and experiences to our schools?!?! See below for a preview of what I will bring up during the presentation I will give at the beginning of the school year.
Below is my interpretation of what I saw at RCA and how I will attempt to instill the ideas I learned, into my classroom.
Make It a Party But End It Fast!
Have fun, sing songs, dance on tables, cheer, and just be joyful as a class. Have key phrases that begin a song/dance/cheer but then the second that song is over, the kids have to be seated and facing the teacher. Back to complete focus and attention on the lesson. BUT this allows the blood to pump, the antsy kids to wiggle, and the joy to rise. It also means that if you do several cheers/chants/songs per lesson, the kids have to listen for those key phrases so they may participate on que. I think it would have been extremely obvious if one of the kids did not join in on que with all the other students...and they would've been in trouble for sure! :)
Be Tough and Consistent!
Set rules and stick to it. At RCA, of course it is the Essential 55 but if you ask the kids about it they will say it's more like 255 rules. If you set up rules for your room or school, they must be followed no matter who breaks them. Even if it is a kid who never gets in trouble...if they break one of the rules, follow through with the discipline expectations. Be extremely clear about the rules. To the point that it almost seems silly. We as adults, assume kids know what we mean by certain terms but they haven't learned it yet. For example, the word respectful needs to be explained in detail with how it looks, what it feels like, the steps to create respectful behavior, etc.
Give REAL Points/Praise That Can't Be Taken Away!
Speaking of houses... Go Isibindi.
Have a Discipline Policy And Stick To It!
In Hope King's class she has a mirror for the kids to write on instead of the board. It's hard to see but it is in the middle of the picture. What I learned during this visit is that I am NOT as tough as I thought I was. Holy guacamole, people. I observed Hope King and Ron Clark teaching and they both did not play! They were the toughest teachers I have ever seen. I teach 1st, so my approach needs to be different BUT I could be tougher. So, next year's class...look out. Ha!
****Go The Extra Mile For Your Students; They Are Family!
The fact that all the students, faculty, and staff are family is truly highlighted in the immense amount of "family photos" that hang all over the walls. It was such a lovely environment. It felt like a vibrant, SUPER LOUD, organized, and happy home.
I always tell my students that we are a class-family. We support and love each other. I go the extra mile to help each student and make sure they know I am there for them. Our class helps and cares for one another, but what I will do differently next year is represent that more in our environment. I have to have student work on the wall all the time (as per district policy), but I have a plan to make it look more beautiful than the ol' bulletin board style stuff I have always done. I have cute boards, but I want this to look more like a home environment.
I truly loved how Mr. Clark had his students reflect on the lessons and answers. The kids helped each other learn by talking through mistakes and ways to get the correct answer. I will definitely use those techniques and phrases used in his class to help my future lessons be more reflective.
I thought this would be the only time I would be able to experience the Ron Clark Academy and went there with a mission to soak in everything. BUT, while I was there, I made the decision I would go back. I have to go back. I have so much more to learn. I felt as though I was in a place that was for me. I felt at home. I could never live in Atlanta. I don't like cities or humidity, but I adore RCA. I felt as though the teachers there connected with my soul. They were so passionate about their school and students. It touched my heart in a way that no other educator training has ever come close to doing.
So, yes, I will be back!
I will do another post about the many things I saw on this amazing adventure next Friday.