I truly don’t even know where to begin as I reflect back on my two days at The Ron Clark Academy. While I was there, I was in educator heaven. I was amazed, excited, curious, and constantly thinking “How can I work this out in my classroom?” I did not want to leave!
I feel as though I am constantly telling someone something or some part of a story from RCA while I’m at school each day. It was definitely THE most life changing Professional Development I have ever attended.
The number one most noticeable and most impressive part of the trip was the students. Every single one of them is genuinely interested in you and excited to have you at the school. Before walking in, a young man approached me, called me mam, asked for my name, and gave me a name tag while finding out where our group was from and asking all sorts of questions. It was IMPRESSIVE. After the two days, I decided that some of the students were by far more well spoken conversationalists than I am! What a wonderful way to raise young leaders!
As we walked in, music was blaring, students were dancing and welcoming everyone. All of a sudden, a young man had my hand and told me he had a surprise for me. Next thing I knew, I was in line for the trampoline! Two students strapped me in and I was off! SO fun! 450 educators and administrators were in the lobby of The Ron Clark Academy dancing and talking with students before the day began. You can just feel the spirit in the school!
I enjoyed two full days of professional development sessions and classroom observations. It was incredibly inspiring to hear the story behind the school and to be exposed to many master teachers who are so giving and real. They are willing to share all of their ideas, tips, and tricks with you. This friends, is why the Ron Clark Academy is so successful.
Kim Bearden, the co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy, shared her story and explained the overarching goals of the school. I’ve kept what she said in mind since I left, “Don’t loose the passion amidst the science of teaching.” We are so often concerned with how to teach with this new requirement or that new mandate and with the new standards we have to get accomplished in a year. We must not forget why we are here in the first place. It’s all for the kids. After visiting RCA, I came back to my school determined to keep my passion in the classroom alive!
The wonderful Hope King from Elementary Shenanigans, also works at the Ron Clark Academy with her incredibly creative husband Wade King. They are both focused on setting the stage for student learning. Just walking into their classrooms (and ANY of the classrooms at RCA) shows that they value the learning environment as a way to bring learning alive for students.
Each class ensures that students are up and moving. Movement is great in the classroom because it enhances and reinforces skills. Students and teachers were singing chants and songs full of academic content. Moving also includes teachers walking around constantly. They never sit. Most do not even have a teacher desk. You will commonly find teachers teaching on top of tables, chairs, and stages. Teachers AND students at RCA do it frequently. Dancing on tables is not out of the ordinary. Teachers use the tables to increase engagement and make sure everyone can see and hear at all times.
The Ron Clark Academy has changed the way I think about teaching. I may stand on a table here and there. I may decorate my classroom to enhance a specific theme. I may create a few chants about vowels for my students to sing. But, I will concentrate my focus on “seeking significance”. Because as Ron Clark says, “The things that happen through you define who you are”.