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Renowned educator Ron Clark offers motivation to UCPS teachers

Jumping between the stage and on top of auditorium chairs, Ron Clark, shares his high-energy philosophy on teaching in America. (Below) Clark thanks Monroe High School principal Brad Breedlove for offering his school auditorium for his presentation.

Ron Clark, a former American Teacher of the Year and a New York Times best selling author, brought his high-energy philosophies on education to an auditorium filled with almost 400 enthusiastic UCPS educators Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Clark, whose classes have been honored at the White House on three separate occasions, shared his own visions for how to reach students and how to make a profound difference in their lives. During his presentation, he danced, sang, joked and
bounced from the stage to standing on top of the auditorium chairs.

“Ron Clark brought a sense of renewal, humor, and inspiration,” said Lisa Gibson, Director of Academically and Intellectually Gifted and Federal Programs. “He spoke about practical ways to make real connections with students and families.”
The educators that filled the room frequently laughed, applauded and in general seemed motivated by his comments.

“Hearing Ron Clark speak was like meeting the teacher that we all strive to be,” said Lauren Efird, a teacher at East Elementary School. “He pulls the best of you to the surface and challenges you to improve.”

Jason Newburger, a teacher at Wingate Elementary, had similar comments. “This year I have been focusing on keeping my students more engaged, but after watching Ron Clark, I want to make myself more engaging. I want to be more active in the classroom, just like Ron Clark.”

Clark explained that to reach students, a teacher has to first care for them as individuals. “It’s about the love that you pour out and the way you push them,” he said.

“If your kids know that you love them, then you can fuss at them, you can push them. If you don’t love them, you’ve got to stop fussing at them. The reason it doesn’t work for them is there’s just yelling and fussing and there is no love behind it. It’s not going to work.”

Another major component to a successful classroom environment, Clark said, was movement and high energy.

“You’ve got to move around the class,” he said. “You have to have a sense of urgency, a sense of intensity. And how about your face? How happy are you? Studies have shown if you are smiling when you give knowledge to someone, they’re more likely to remember it and more likely to believe it.”

It goes a lot deeper than just high energy. Clark said his goal as an educator is to challenge his gifted students. “The gifted kids need to know what it is to be challenged. If they don’t, they’re going to continue to coast through, end up living at home with mom at 29-years-old wondering why the world doesn’t love them.”

The problem with the way America educates gifted children, Clark said, is an overabundance of complements and little offered to challenge.

“All we’ve done is to tell these kids how gifted and special they are, and then when they graduate, we wonder why they’re never as successful as we thought they would be,” he said. “It’s because we have coddled them. We are raising a soft generation of children. We’re already 27th in the world of education. I think it’s because we’ve dumbed-down our education.”

Clark said that when he began teaching, educators told him that he had to lower expectations for students with learning disabilities or other educational challenges, a philosophy he rejected.

“As soon as we have kids with a label on them, we want to lower expectations. When they get a label, it doesn’t mean lower expectations, it means we have to get off our butts and teach them differently. We have to find different ways to motivate them, to get them excited, to get them to understand. But you can’t lower expectation because the world isn’t going to lower expectations.”

Clark closed his two-hour high-energy presentation encouraging UCPS educators to leave with a sense of urgency and determination to reach every student.

“You can make an impact if you dream big for these kids,” he said. “When you go out of this room, take the passion, take the spirit and the energy and do whatever it takes to make a difference in every one of their lives.”

Clark’s success with low-wealth students in rural North Carolina and Harlem, New York City has been turned into a movie titled, “The Ron Clark Story,” staring Matthew Perry.

Clark’s school, The Ron Clark Academy (RCA), is an award-winning and nationally acclaimed middle school in Atlanta, Georgia. The school is known for an atmosphere that makes students excited to learn.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Nov 10, 2014 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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