From Ron Clark’s The End of Molasses Classes:
"Remind children of their blessings and stress the value of a strong work ethic."
Disney’s Teacher of the Year, Oprah Winfrey’s "Phenomenal Man," author, academy founder
and educator – is there anything Ron Clark can’t do?
Educated at East Carolina University, Ron Clark’s first teaching job was in Aurora, NC. Four years later he felt “a calling” to teach in Harlem, where he
knew he could make a real difference in the students’ lives. His first year teaching in Harlem was the focus of a 2006 made-for-TV movie, starring Matthew Perry.
In an interview with Education Oasis, Mr. Clark said, “Where I
taught, the kids didn't have self-esteem, they didn't feel confident. I figured that if I could teach them skills, the skills would lead to confidence, and
confidence would lead to pride and self-esteem... We're constantly telling kids to be respectful, but we're not taking the time to show them exactly what
we expect, step by step. I wanted to come up with a list of rules to show the kids exactly how they should behave.”
Mr. Clark’s list of fifty-five rules became the basis for his New York Times bestseller, The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child (2003). He has written two other books
on education, including The End of Molasses Classes (2011), which we’ll review here next month, and The Excellent 11 – An Award-Winning Teacher’s Guide to Raising Children Who Love to Learn.
At the Disney Teacher of the Year award ceremony in 2000, he met Kim Bearden, a co-honoree who shared his vision for founding an institution of creative
teaching. For years the two worked together to make their dream a reality. In 2005, using earnings from The Essential 55, Clark purchased a
warehouse in Southeast Atlanta to serve as the school’s site. The Ron Clark Academy’s inaugural class of 60
students was announced in March 2007.
The Academy (RCA) is a nonprofit middle school, acclaimed for its academic rigor, passion and creativity, balanced by a strict code of discipline. “While I
am strict and have these expectations,” Mr. Clark said, “at the same time I'm ‘rapping’ my lessons, doing double-dutch, dressing up as different
characters, treating them with respect, being positive… You have to make sure the students want to be in the classroom, that they enjoy being
around you, they respect you, and they're having fun in there.”
He goes the extra mile to help his students relate to him, rather than viewing him as “an ancient being” they have nothing in common with. For example, he
watches the TV shows they like, and learned how to play Game Boy.
We can relate to him, too! Who doesn’t recognize the authenticity of sentiments like these, voiced by Mr. Clark recently on Twitter:
“Now, this right here what I'm feeling is what my grandma called "bone tired." First week of school ain't no joke!”
Be sure to check back for our review of Mr. Clark’s The End of Molasses Classes.