This week I had the chance to visit The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta! I decided to sit down and share my experience while everything is still fresh in my mind.
And, we had a 4 hour drive home to decompress and process all that we had seen and experienced…so I want to share some takeaways…
If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while, you know I like to be open, honest and transparent. And real. So I want to start of my post with a bit of honesty.
I have never been a big fan of RCA. I was very skeptical actually. I was bothered by charging teachers to come into a school to help teachers grow. I was skeptical of how much of RCA can be replicated in schools. I was skeptical of how much of RCA was about the kids and how much of it was a show. So, there’s my truth. (You can throw things at me if you like…But I wanted to give you some background…)
That being said, I decided to go to RCA so I could experience it for myself and have information to form a valid opinion. And I am glad I did!
So…here are my thoughts and takeaways!
My favorite part of the day was the students and getting to talk to the kids about their lives and experiences at RCA.
The students at RCA are taught and expected to be great conversationalist. And it shows! They carry on great conversations and are confident in doing so. I love that the kids were willing to share what they liked about RCA and what they didn’t like. They wanted to know about us and our lives. For me, talking to the students was the most insightful part of the day.
So, what do they like? The passion of the teachers, the close bonds and family feeling of the school, the trips, and the excitement.
What do they not like? The rules! Several students talked about how hard the rules and expectations were and how they wished it was a less strict!
Some of my favorite take aways came from Adam Dovico. He is a former teacher at RCA and now a professor at Wake Forest.
He made two statements that are resonating with me in a powerful way:
I love those statements because it reminds us of our responsibility to make learning fun and engaging! We need to create magical experiences for our students! (Now….ya’ll know me and you know this doesn’t mean a huge, amazing stage show…it means a costume, art, music, a Skype or Google Hangout….simple!)
Adam also shared some research that he has done that shows kids learn more and remember more from happy teachers. So, we all need to SMILE MORE!
He also shared some research about our bodies when we teach….People, keep those arms up and moving! Research shows we need to keep our arms above our hearts when teaching. And think of how tone our arms will be!
Ron Clark talked about the arms up and moving and compared it to dust falling from the ceiling and we are moving our arms to keep the dust off our kids’ heads!
Another takeaway was the power of expectations. If we set our expectations low, that’s where our kids will perform. If we set our expectations high, that’s where our kids will perform. I have incredibly high expectations of my students and they meet those expectations daily. It’s time we stop making excuses and using the words “these kids” and push our students to reach for the stars!
I loved the importance of relationships at RCA. The students talked about how they feel like a family and feel the love of their teachers and fellow classmates! Nothing matters until our students know we love them, care for them and respect them. It’s all about relationships!
I love the excitement and passion at the school.
And of course, the slide!
I love the message of the slide! We can either take the stairs and do things like we’ve always done (you know…”this is how we’ve always done it…”) or we can take the slide and slide into new ways of thinking, new ideas and be BOLD!!!
And yes, I’m working on getting a slide in my classroom!
Overall, I loved my time at RCA! Ron Clark is passionate and fun and he definitely gets you excited to teach and try new things! I feel invigorated after my visit but I also feel very, very reaffirmed about what I am doing in my classroom!
I also got to see my friend Home from Elementary Shenanigans teach and go to spend time chatting with her and husband Wade who also teaches at RCA! They’re fantastic and I love them!
So, how do I feel about RCA now?
I think they’re doing great things. Would I want to turn my classroom into an RCA type classroom? No. Is RCA replicable? Parts of it are, parts of it aren’t. Funding is a major issue for most teachers and classrooms but the cheers and chants and passion and excitement are free and we MUST HAVE MORE OF THAT IN OUR CLASSROOMS ALL DAY EVERYDAY!
Do I agree with everything I saw and heard at RCA? No. I still have concerns and still have many questions. (But we’re human and we don’t have to like everything 100% to learn from it and find new ideas and takeaways!)
Do I recommend a visit to RCA: Yes. If you’re looking to be inspired and pumped up you need to go!
But if you go….you must go with a group of friends that you love and adore and that you can share your experience with:
And if you go, you must coordinate your outfits.
And you must have coordinating notebooks and pens.
And you must use the letters in your game to make a cute name for your group.
Greg, Dana, Katie …..became GRANIE!
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My Ron Clark Academy Experience was last modified: September 29th, 2016 by Greg Smedley-Warren
Howdy, I am Mr. Greg. I have been teaching for 11 years. I spent a year teaching fifth grade, two years in second grade and am now in my 9th year in Kindergarten. Kindergarten is my passion and my calling but honestly, that wasn’t how it started. Read the whole story >