Well, it’s been a few weeks since my Ron Clark Academy experience and I think that I am finally ready to share my takeaways and reflections! Upon landing back in Minnesota, after my RCA experience, I found myself struggling to wrap my head around the AMAZINGNESS that just happened! Not only did I get to spend some quality time with some of my favorite bloggers that you see pictured above but the amount of inspiration, magic, ideas, and learning that took place blew my mind! For those who know me, you know that I love quotes. My notebook was FILLED with quotes when I left Atlanta, GA so here are some of my favorites along with my takeaways.
Mr. Ron Clark has a tough love mentality. This was evident coming from an administrator role and a teacher role. I love what he has to say about complainers. We know that every school has them. Don’t let yourself be categorized into this group unless you are going to be an active part of finding the solution. What would you like to see changed in your school? Classroom? Life? How have you made steps towards fixing the problem?
Mrs. Kim Bearden is spot on with this one! When we focus on the things that we can do, we are embracing our resources and the moment. Take your strengths and run with them! The possibilities are endless. I think we can apply this same quote to our students. Think about it. Think about yourself as a student. Were you great in every subject area of school? How about in life? Do you enjoy doing the things in life that you are weak at doing? Your answer is probably no. Does that mean our students shouldn’t work on their weak areas? Again, no but if we embrace their strengths and the things they can do, their potential and successes will also increase. Did you know that Mrs. Bearden has also written an amazing book for educators? It’s called Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me. I highly recommend reading this book. She tells some beautiful stories and provides the reader with a message of the importance of building relationships, abandoning fear, discovering resilience, embracing one’s unique gifts, and living with passion.
This quote from the very sweet and talented Mrs. Hope King made me grab my pen and notebook and write like crazy! Immediately after this session with her, I jumped on Twitter to tweet this one out to the world because I 100% agree with her! If we are going to get our students to be better readers, they must have some freedom of choice over their books. Again, let’s do some self reflection. What do you do if you are reading a book and you don’t like it? You tune out. You dread picking it up. Or, if you have the option, you put it down and don’t pick it up again. Now, think about your students. Do they have the freedom over their own book choices? Do they have books readily available for them to read? Do they have a wide variety of books to choose from? Are you encouraging your students to try out different genres so they know what they enjoy and dislike? Are you conferencing with your students to help them develop their love of reading and books?
Oh, Mr. Wade King, your words scream ESSENTIAL to me! Ever since I heard you speak about the importance of WHY, it has made me self reflect about my life IN and OUT of the classroom. In the classroom, I am making it a point to ask myself, “What is the why in this lesson?” I post the learning target for each lesson on the board. I don’t do this because my administration wants me to, I do this because I think it helps my students to understand the importance of the lesson. I teach 2nd grade so I feel that writing this learning target on the board gives them the visual that they need. I had to chuckle the other day as I was explaining to my students that we were going to be making candy towers with their STEM buddies. One of my students asked me, “Mrs. Olson, can you explain the WHY for these candy towers?” Now, before going to RCA, I probably would have taken a little bit of insult to this question. After RCA, I found myself clapping and jumping up on my chair as I praised this students for being curious and proceeded to explain the WHY in this activity. How awesome!!!
No more excuses. We have students from all kinds of different home lives, financial situations, personalities, disabilities, and the list could go on and on. Again, focus on what you CAN do and move forward! No more excuses. We can’t change so many of the excuses we have used as a reason for why our students can be difficult to teach. Am I saying that some students that are facing huge barriers in their life aren’t going to struggle if they have a good teacher? NO! What I am saying is that instead of the negative barriers in students’ lives being a focus, let’s focus on what they and we can do to help them! Don’t throw in the towel on a child before they have a chance to show you what they can do. They need someone to believe in them. Focus on what they can do. Focus on the resources you do have. Focus on your strengths. Make a difference. Move forward. No more excuses.
Does your school feel like a family? Does it feel like a community of loving and passionate educators that want the best for ALL the students in the school? Do you use the term “my kids” or “our kids”? I think that when teachers only focus on their own classrooms, the competitiveness can be an issue which, in turn, can create animosity amongst teachers. Every adult needs to be equally responsible for all the kids in the school. Yes. That includes teachers, principal, secretary, janitors, lunchroom staff, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and parents.
This one speaks my language! I have a quote that hangs in my office that says, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” I know that I struggle with stepping outside of my comfort zone at times because that can be scary. I worry about what people will think about me. I worry about others getting upset with me for trying to do something “outside of the box”. But then I am reminded of what the bottom line should be, which is, if our actions in the classroom/school are looking out for the best interest of the kids, then it is the right thing to be doing.
I think about some of the most scary things that I have done for myself when it comes to my blogging/TPT life. The risks that I have taken have far outweighed the failures. 99% of the time, the risks that involve me to step outside of my comfort zone have led to something rewarding. Step outside of your comfort zone, friends.
Do you own Mr. Clark’s book yet? Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life is a MUST READ BOOOK. In his book he talks about a bus. The bus is compared to life/work/school. The driver of the bus is your boss/principal. Then you have riders, walkers, joggers, and runners. The runners are the people who give 110% all the time and don’t need to receive recognition for their work. These are the people who step outside of their comfort zone and take risks. These are the passionate people. These are the people who are doing amazing things with their students because they love it. These are the people who come to work dressed as professionals. These are the people who take pride in their work. These are the people who come early and stay late. These are the people who show up to meetings on time. These are the people who focus on the why of lessons and always make it clear to their students. Do you get the idea? Mr. Clark says that the runners are the ones that need to be fueled. So often principals focus on lifting up the riders and walkers. These efforts are often times not successful. Instead, fuel the runners because they are doing amazing things and will continue to do the amazing things. Love this message.
At the beginning of this post, I talked about the tough love mentality. The educators at RCA were nothing short of AMAZING and will have forever left an impression on me as an educator and a person. These educators set high expectations for their students, push them to achieve great things, embrace their strengths, and love them unconditionally. The students at the Ron Clark Academy showed top-notch respect, dedication, manners, and focus. These students will forever remember how the adults at RCA made them feel. I will always strive to keep this same mentality so that I can attempt to make the same difference on the students in my classroom. Thank you Ron Clark Academy!