Saturday, March 10, 2018

Ron Clark Academy

Image from here

Back when I was a student teacher, my eldest sister bought me a book, The Essential 55, by Ron Clark, a former Disney Educator of the Year.  I devoured the book.  It was amazing!  I bought and read two of his other books over the years; The Excellent 11 and The End of Molasses Classes. I was hooked on everything that Ron wrote in his books!

I've been following him on social media for years!  I was ELATED to hear that he started The Ron Clark Academy down in Atlanta, Georgia, with Kim Bearden - another fantastic educator! RCA holds educator training several times a month during the school year.  (Some are one day trainings, some are two day trainings.) I've always wanted to go, but, it's kind of expensive.  

Back in October, Donors Choose, started accepting AND matching professional development projects - which included TRIPS TO THE RON CLARK ACADEMY!!! As soon as I found that out, I submitted a project to attend.  It was funded less than a week later!  I CRIED when I saw that my project had been funded!!!!  My principal gave me a HUGE hug!  (She knew that it was a dream of mine to attend!)  The countdown was now on until I would go down there...

Fast forward to this week.  I flew down Wednesday afternoon and had difficulty sleeping that night as I couldn't WAIT to go the next day!

I arrived early and the outside is PACKED with current educators AND student teachers.  (I was told there were about 600 of us there!)

Before going in, I had to get my name tag, which also told me what group I was in.

Then I was ready to go in!  This place looked magical from the outside!

Little did I know how much more magical it would be on the inside!!!  Have you ever walked into a place and just KNEW you were supposed to be there?  That it was home?  That was the way I felt after being there for less than five minutes! I started walking in and there was music BLASTING all throughout!  Students and staff were lined up greeting people as they walked in!   I'm walking down this path, rocking out to the music, saying hi to everyone, trying to take everything in, when right before I turned, I see Ron Clark, THE RON CLARK, right in front of me!  I squealed & screamed, "OH MY G-D!!!!!" shook his hand excitedly, and turned the corner to go down the next hall.

Now, here I'm thinking, "I CAN'T BELIEVE I JUST SHOOK HIS HAND!!!!!" when all of a sudden, I see Hope King.  Hope is another phenomenal teacher at RCA, who I've been following on social media for awhile. I've purchased her products on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I follow her blog.  I bought the book she and her husband, Wade King - another RCA teacher - wrote: The Wild Card.  

When I saw Hope, I kid you not, I acted like my teenage girl self meeting my rock star idol!  Well, she is one of my idols - my educator idols.  I'm not joking when I tell you that this is what I said. (Ok, screamed...) "OH MY GOSH!!!! HOPE KING!!!! YOU AND I ARE FACEBOOK FRIENDS AND I FOLLOW YOUR BLOG AND YOU ARE JUST SO AWESOME AND I CAN'T BELIEVE I AM MEETING YOU!!!!!!  OH MY GOSH!!!!!"  Hope is just as sweet as ever and gave me the biggest hug and said she was so happy to meet me!  Then, I just about started to cry as I continued on down the hall towards the gym where everyone was gathering.  

Here are a few pictures of what I saw on the way to the gym....

RCA modeled a lot after the Harry Potter series - including the house system.  RCA has their own four houses which I'll explain more about later on.

I walked into the most beautiful gym.  Check out the sides!

Everyone had some sort of light up device on their seat.  I had pink Minnie Mouse ears!

The next two days were full of moving from one room to the next.  Sometimes, I was just with my group, or with one other group, several other groups, or ALL of us.  We observed classes in action.  We got to talk with the RCA staff in their rooms.  We listened, interacted, participated, EVERYTHING.  Lunchtime was special - the students ate lunch with us and held actual conversations with us.  It was great!  They were so lovely to eat with.

Here are some of the 200 pictures that I took.

The relaxing, beautiful art room. (Susan Barnes)

The forbidden forest: (Pamela Haskins' room)

Hope's room (Alice in Wonderland)

Wade King's room:  (No, he isn't the music teacher!)

I want a jukebox in my room!!!

Kim Bearden's room:

I want something like this **ABOVE** in my room!!!

 Science (Daniel Thompson) & Social Studies (Brandon Fleming):

Yes, those are the doors to his classroom!!!

I have to share my favorite picture I took of him teaching.  His entire class was engaged - truly magical experience!  When I watched him teach, I sat there with my jaw dropped.  I was in awe of his teaching style, with the level of student engagement, with how quickly they responded, EVERYTHING!
Here are some other pictures from around RCA:
Dragon staircase!

 The next three pictures show what was found in the bathroom stalls!  How cool!!!!
(This was on the top of the stall in the bathroom)

Ron was talking with all of us in this pic.

Ron's rules hanging beautifully.

As I mentioned earlier, RCA models a lot of things after Harry Potter - including a House System.  There four houses are:
Altruismo - House of givers.  Their color is black.
Isibindi - House of courage.  Their color is green.
Amistad - House of friendship.  Their color is red.
Rêveur - House of dreamers.  Their color is blue.

They even have a house cup champion every year!

At the end of the day 1, Ron encouraged all of the visitors to go down their slide and become slide certified!  Why the slide?  We can either take the stairs and do things like we’ve always done or we can take the slide and slide into new ways of thinking, new ideas and be bold and different.  I LOVED the slide!!!!  

Upon reaching the bottom, two students were there to greet me and help me up.  Then I got to pick which house I wanted to be part of!  Let me tell you, those students have so such pride for their houses!!!  They were trying to convince us all day to pick their house.  I thought very carefully about it and I was torn between two houses: Amistad & Rêveur.  See the picture below to find out which one I chose....

Rêveur!!!!  I did some soul searching and realized, I really am a dreamer!  This was the house for me!

By the way, check out Mr. Collins jacket.  (Mr. Collins teaches at RCA.  I LOVE THIS JACKET!!!!)

What else do I want to share with you?

  • The week prior to us visiting, RCA held their musical.  Some of the students performed a number from their musical for us.  (I should mention that the students only had 7 days to write their musical!! Very impressive!)
  • The RCA Step Team performed for us too!  They have won several national championships!
  • When not in classes, the students took time to speak with us.  They sat with us at lunch and carried on conversations beautifully and eloquently.  They asked us questions and answered all of our questions.  They were polite and gave me such hope for the future.
  • It was so awesome to see how many alumni were on hand to volunteer for the day.  Many were home on spring break.  That says something!
  • We were lucky enough to witness a student receiving his RCA jacket.  (Jackets are only given to students when every staff members agrees on it.)  What I saw when this young man received his jacket moved me to tears (again.)  He was crying.  I'm pretty sure Kim Bearden was crying.  All of the students jumped up and swarmed him with hugs and love.
There are so many more things I could write - everything I learned and saw, but that would make this twice as long as it already is.  So instead, I'll share a few more pictures.

Thursday night, I received an email from a parent who told me his cousin Haley was also at RCA!  (What a small world!)  She and I exchanged phone numbers and met up!  
So nice to have met you!!!!! :-)  

This man here, is going to change the world!  I can feel it!  It was an honor to meet Mr. Hicks, a kindergarten teacher - who lives about 30 minutes from me!  This guy is PHENOMENAL!  Check out what he did with his students!

Me with the two "newbies" on the RCA team - CJ Wallace and Korey Collins.  They are full of energy, youth, and excitement!  I wish my group had gone to visit them, but we were not on their schedule. :-( 

Me with Kim Bearden.  She is such a wonderful speaker!  I bought her book and can't wait to read it! 

Me with Hope! <3 

True story:  She and her husband Wade, were talking to us about the House System they use at RCA.  Hope was using the microphone and Wade was putting on the microphone headset when he made a comment about how he felt like a member of a boy band.  Well, I happened to love my boy bands and shouted out loud (from the front row,) a big old WOOHOO!  Wade was taken aback and Hope turns around and says with her adorable southern accent, "Are you hitting on my man?"  All of us - myself included, were laughing hysterically.  They called me out a few more times throughout their session.  I laughed every single time.

Later on in the day, I walked up to Hope and she thanked me for being such a good sport while she teased me.  We had a nice little talk about my school and her and Wade's book.  That's when the picture was taken.   (They both signed my book earlier in the day!)

Ron was kind enough to sign things for people and take pictures.  He didn't just sign things and send us on our way.  He took time to talk to us.  He asked me questions about where I'm from, what I teach, etc...He is a remarkable person!
Ron Clark and his staff are doing TREMENDOUS things at the Ron Clark Academy!

Educators:  YOU NEED TO GO VISIT!  It doesn't matter the grade level or subject level you teach.  JUST GO!  You can find more information here.  I promise you, it is worth it!
Seeing the relationships between students and staff, between staff and the families of the students, and between the students themselves, is indescribable!  The passion the teachers put into what they're doing every single day - it shows!
Image from here.

I will continue to dream.
I will continue to slide.
I will continue to ask myself why.
I will continue to make magic for my students.

Thank you for stopping by!

Ron Clark Academy

  Image from here .  Back when I was a student teacher, my eldest sister bought me a book, The Essential 55 , by Ron Clark, a former ...