Monday, September 30, 2013

A Morning of Inspiration From Ron Clark

Getting my fangirl on for Ron Clark!
Today I took the day off so I could see Ron Clark in person. I have been a fan of Mr. Clark's since I started teaching 5 years ago. I read all of his books, saw the movie, and have made every effort to use some of his techniques in my classroom. My principal also heard him speak several years ago and since then, every morning she reads one Essential 55 rule during the morning announcements.  The Essential 55 are simple but effective guidelines to help guide behavior and instill a sense of pride and responsibility in students.  The Essential 55 has become part of our school culture.

Some of the advice he gave to the packed room full of teachers today was not over-the-top or unreasonable techniques, but just good strategies for keeping our kids engaged and challenged:

1.  Keep them moving - for every 45 minutes of instruction, take a few minutes to get the blood flowing to their brain. Songs, dancing, or just plain old jumping jacks will do the trick. He even suggested giving them 20 seconds to find a different seat to sit in!

2.  Use music to help teach. He is really good at changing words to popular songs to fit what he is teaching (and he can bust a move), but there are also tons of songs and videos on YouTube that you can use without ever having to come up with your own.  A few years ago, I changed the words to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" to fit the Daily 5 and Good Fit Books and called it "Read It". The kids even helped me with some of the wording.

3.  Don't teach to the lowest, don't teach to the middle - teach to the highest and have expections for the lowest to learn and achieve as much as the others.

"When you put a label on a kid (person) - you lower expectations." 
Ron Clark

4. Don't let the highest kids chill out and make easy A's - challenge them and raise the bar because when they enter the real world there are no easy A's.

When you push the gifted kids everyone's scores go up. Ron clark

6.  Make lessons exciting and engaging - go outside, do math problems on balloons, make it rain in your classroom by turning down the lights, playing recorded rain sounds, and putting up umbrellas.

7.  Make your kids work for their rewards - make rewards meaningful!  He used the example of doing math problems on balloons: The kids come to class and there are balloons everywhere - they have to grab one and do a math problem on it. The kids who get it right get to pop the balloon - the kids who get it wrong don't...even when they say "please". The next day, have the balloons again. This time, more kids may get it right and get to pop the balloon. Don't just stick with balloons though, because the kids who have already popped them will be ready to move on - mix it up and keep it fun and challenging.

"We have wussified America and education; why do all kids have to get trophies?" Ron Clark

8. Know who your students are - demand eye contact, learn their culture, and don't pretend that you're color blind.

8. Go the extra mile FOR YOUR KIDS - not to make other teachers feel bad or inadequate.

"Don’t take the stairs in life. Use the slide. Try something unusual. Be a disrupter. Do something. Be someone." Ron Clark

Tomorrow when I go back to school, I probably will not be jumping on top of desks, but I will definitely be making more of an effort to reach and engage my kids through songs, physical activity, and high expectations!

Thank you Mr. Clark!

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