Sunday, October 19, 2014

Once in a Lifetime...

This past Friday I had one of those once in a lifetime, unbelievably memorable moments as an educator.  It was the completion of a dream that I'd been dreaming since about 2001.

2001 was when I was introduced to Ron Clark. I was a very new teacher in a small private school and happened to have a moment to watch Oprah.  Here is the first glimpse I had of Ron.

After that glimpse, I started loosely following what he was doing in the field of education.  It wasn't too long before I discovered his first book

I read it from cover to cover and started implementing the 55 in my classroom immediately. 

Over the next few years I kept an eye out for anything Ron Clark.  I read magazine articles, watched videos, conducted internet searches, etc. 

When he started the Ron Clark Academy in 2007, I secretly dreamed to be a part of that experience.  I believed in the message he was projecting to his students, his staff, other teachers, and the education community.  I became a Ron Clark groupie.

In 2011, I began to work at a new elementary school where the principal was also a Ron Clark groupie.  She wanted our school to embody the spirit of RCA.  I worked with her for a year and we implemented small things into the school that mirrored some of the components of RCA.  In 2012, she decided to bring Ron Clark into our district as a speaker.  I was thrilled.  I couldn't wait to be a part of that experience.  I volunteered to be his "host" when he arrived and make sure he got to the stage on time.  I couldn't sleep the night before.  I had my clothes all laid out, questions that I wanted to ask him, and was a complete nervous wreck as I drove to the event.
I spent about 30 minutes with him and was still in awe of all that he had accomplished.  I was more amazed at how he was genuinely interested in me as a teacher and my students.  He wanted to know my challenges and my successes, the things that excited me, the obstacles that I faced.  He encouraged me to continue to do what I was doing, even if it brought criticism, because I was doing it for my kids.  It was the message I needed to hear at that time.

The next year I was in a different state doing a different job in a very different environment.  One that broke my spirit and my motivation.  I hated every minute of the year and struggled to find my place.  I didn't fit and ended up broken by the people I worked with each day.  There were days that I remembered that small piece of advice that Ron gave me.  

I moved back to the school who was embracing the Ron Clark Academy as a motivation and this year has been amazing.  When the school year started, I was thrilled to be a part of the experience again.  I was in a building with so many teachers who truly wanted to create memorable experiences for their students.  I received an email not too long after the year started that informed me that I had been chosen to visit the Ron Clark Academy in October.  The email made me cry because that was  dream I had had for many years.

This past week was the day...Thursday evening we left and drove to Atlanta.  Friday morning we ventured to the school and there began the most amazing experience I've ever been a part.  There were many moments where tears came to my eyes because I was so thrilled to be a part of a group that truly was seeking excellence in everything they did, not for their own accolades, but the accolades of their students.  

We walked into the library and students were greeting us as music blared in the background.  Dancing, trampolines, and smiles were the norm.  We went to the main building and met Wade King on electric guitar and a slew of students singing us into the building.  One grabbed my hand and walked me through the masses and placed me on the stairs because he "thought I was too excited to be in the background."  

I met my dear blog friend Hope King who is fortunate to work in this amazing place and then was whisked away to Mr. Clark's math class.  I was mesmerized because he was teaching 5th graders - I do to -some pretty phenomenal math skills.  Every 5 minutes or so, the students broke into songs that helped them with the content of the lesson.  African drums were used by students who may possibly struggle with attention, chants were used, students hopped on tables to answer questions, Ron walked on tables to see student work.  One thing that completely amazed me was the short amount of time he gave students to work pretty complicated math problems - the largest amount was 24 seconds.  Students worked to push the red button - they needed 16 students to get a problem correct, but they were unsuccessful so he sent them to the teachers in the room to work the problem and we helped them achieve the red button.  When the red button was pushed, the song "Turn Down for What" came on, the lights were off, disco lights were lit and everyone was up dancing.  What an experience.

The next stop was to meet with Kim Bearden.  Loved her right away.  She's an ELA girl and I connected to that.  I walked away with so many ideas.  

I had lunch with 2 amazing 7th graders who carried my lunch, found me a seat, and then held a conversation with me about my life as a teacher.  The students were so eloquent and genuinely interested in my students.  

At the end of the day, the final experience was to become slide certified.  In the atrium of the school there is a huge, blue tube slide.  The slide represents that sometimes there are different ways to do things, you don't always need to take the stairs, sometimes you need to slide.  Every person there hopped in the slide and landed in the atrium with students singing and dancing.  We received stickers to show we were not officially slide certified.  The closing moment was when the students sang a version of "Stereo Hearts" that was rewritten to honor teachers.   I'm not lying when I say I was boohooing in the atrium of RCA as students looked me in the eyes and sang those words to me.  

This experience will live forever with me and has inspired me to continue to push the limits and go beyond.  I can't wait to get into my classroom this week and push my students.

But, the day didn't end there.  I tweeted out my experiences as the day went on just thinking that others would enjoy seeing the pictures.  Never in a million years did I predict or anticipate that Ron Clark himself would favorite one of my tweets. Talk about the icing on the cupcake!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Sounds like an AMAZING experience! I wish we had a school like that out here in CA. I'd so love to be a part of it! I'm going to have to check out that book!

    What I Have Learned


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