Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Perfect Motivation

There are moments in every teacher's career that are easily remembered.  There are moments that are just as easily forgotten, and then there are moments that regardless of what you do, they will never, ever come close to being matched because they were that phenomenal.

I wrote earlier this week about a dream coming true for me.  Ron Clark was coming to town and I was going to be his personal host.  I have spent the last few days in an euphoric cloud of dreamland trying to figure out what I would say - would I stumble on my words, make a fool out of myself, etc.  I spent hours picking out the right outfit that looked perfectly professional, but not to over the top.  It was like preparing for prom or a first date, really.

For years I've read everything I could get my hands on about Ron Clark, watched every YouTube video, taped every episode of a talk show that came on, just to get a glimpse into his classroom.

Last night, I didn't sleep.  AT ALL!  I was hyped up like it was Christmas Eve and I was waiting for Santa to arrive.  The last time I couldn't sleep like this was the night before I got married.  I woke up every hour thinking about today. 

At 5:00, I woke up and brewed a pot of coffee and then began to get ready.  I realized that it was still before 6:00 and there was no way that I could leave that early.  If I had, I'm sure I'd have been sitting in a dark parking lot.  At 6:20, I decided that if I arrived at 7:00, that would be perfect.  Then I could help where needed. 

I pulled into the parking lot right at 7, and headed into the door.  It was empty, but bustling with energy.  We hung signs, set out books, found microphones, arranged the lobby.  All in an effort to provide other teachers with a phenomenal experience.

As the lobby began to fill up, my heart began to race.  At 8:15 on the nose, Ron arrived and we headed to the green room.  There were no normal introductions with Ron, he greeted everyone with a hug and a huge smile.  As we sat in the green room waiting for the news to arrive, we talked about the greatest challenges as teachers.  It was hard to narrow things down to one, but I responded with time - time to teach all of the standards to all the kids, time to take care of myself and my family, time to do everything that is expected and more. He was fantastic.  He asked about my kids, what my favorite subject to teach was, what I enjoy in my spare time.  I thought it would be me asking all of the questions, but he genuinely wanted to get to know me. 

If you have never had the experience of seeing Ron speak, you really are missing out on great entertainment.  He interacted with the audience, climbed on the back of pews, danced, rapped his way through algebra, taught us how to have a good handshake, and more.

The most profound thought out of the entire day was this, ...we have to stop teaching to the middle and to the kids who struggle.  Teach to the highest kid in the room.  Engage them, make them work for it.  If your lowest kid only achieves half, it is way more than if you would have slowed down. (completely paraphrased)  He stated multiple times that if our challenge/gifted students don't have to work for it, they create a poor work ethic and that does more harm to our country than anything.  I wanted to stand up on my pew and shout a hearty, "Amen!"    I learned that Finland, China, and India put 90% of their educational funding into gifted/challenge programs and they are the top educational systems world wide.  The US, well, we don't do that. 

After he spoke, I spent the next hour and a half manning the book signing table.  Ron took the time to talk to EVERY single one about what they taught, where they taught, what they thought the biggest challenge was, etc. 

The day was perfect.  It was exactly what I needed.  I'm ready to plan for next week and plan to knock their socks off each day.  Not in EVERY single moment, but something small every day - working a math problem on a balloon, teaching with sunglasses, etc. 

The day challenged me as a 13 year teacher to make it new.  What worked one day, may not work the next.  Keep adding to the bag of tricks.  Get to know your kids - This is my favorite part.  Visit their houses, show up at their ball games, serve their favorite foods.  Building relationships will go much further when there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. 

Yes, these are things I know and do, but it doesn't hurt to hear them again. 

If we make it fun for the kids, it will also be fun for us.  I LOVE what I do, but I find that I love it more when I've taken the time to make it fun.  I challenge you to read Ron's books and choose one idea to work into your room this week.


  1. It was great seeing you today at Ron Clark! I am envious of the day you had with him, despite the fact that I am still on Cloud 9 after hearing him speak this morning!! And yes, I did blog about it tonight (only because i know I don't have to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow!!!)...and I gave you a shout out! Enjoy your weekend!!

  2. your page is so glad i found your newest follower drop by =) ...your inching to 100 followers if you need help with a donation let me know ...

    Just Wild About Teaching

  3. Treating all of our kids as simple, and yet so hard to remember to do everyday when we're in the trenches. Thanks for sharing your awesome day with us : )

    Young Daze in 5th Grade


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