This is a guest blog post by friend and SMSU alumna, Kelsey Stanek Brust, who is currently a 4th/5th Grade Multiage Teacher at RTR Elementary School in Ruthton, Minnesota. Kelsey just completed her first year of teaching and is excited about making her classroom a place where students want to be. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KelseyStanek
When I was a junior at SMSU, I learned about Ron Clark in Dr. Wendy’s ED 423 Classroom Management class. We watched the movie, The Ron Clark Story, and learned various strategies that he used in his classroom that we could apply to our own management philosophy. From then, I have thought it would be absolutely amazing to have the chance to visit the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) located in Atlanta, GA.
Fast forward three years, I finally had my very own classroom and I was the TEACHER. 🙂 I found huge value in social media for professional development and networking reasons and came across so many educators throughout the nation who have shared their classroom transformations and just being “RCA Inspired.” And then BAM! I was like I NEED to go there! I read so many blogs about teachers who have experienced the RCA training and I read more about the training itself and all its details. The RCA training isn’t very cheap so I debated whether I should go now or wait a few years. The more I thought about it, I just knew that I needed to go now. I took the plunge and registered for the summer conference. TALK ABOUT BUTTERFLIES!
Let’s fast forward again. It’s finally the first day of the training. I was unbelievably nervous because I went to RCA alone…just me, myself, and I. A small town girl who is used to seeing five people on main street and now I am here with over 650 educators whom I have never met! Deep breath…smile and wave people, smile and wave. 🙂 The staff was finally opening up the gates for us to plow in and start this phenomenal experience. There was music blasting, kids dancing and cheering, and then there was Ron Clark!!! He was greeting us as we came in with a hugely infectious smile and then he came up and shook my hand and said, “Welcome!” Yes, Ron Clark shook my hand!! Is it socially acceptable to never wash my hand again?!? 🙂
The energy of this place is outstanding. We are all heading into the gym and on our way in we pass by Kim Bearden. Ya’ll…she is the most kind-hearted, down to earth soul you will meet. While we were waiting in the gym, the students came up to us and started up conversations with us. The conversational skills that these middle schoolers demonstrated was astounding!!! Once everyone is settled in the gym, Ron skips out on stage and speaks to us about the revolution they want to make in education.
He says that education should be young, fun, sexy, and hot! It shouldn’t be worksheets and frowns by bored teachers. What kid is going to want to be a teacher when they grow up if all they see is their teacher passing out lame worksheets and not having fun at all?
From there, we were split into groups and went to various workshops throughout the day. We were also able to see classrooms in action with the students. We finally were able to go to Ron’s room and watch him teach. It was AMAZING! There was music and no one was talking. Ron was just using a whole bunch of signs and sign language for what the students were supposed to do. Pretty soon he was on the tables dancing and waiting for the students to complete their math problem correctly.
Following the Q & A, we were going to be slide certified! Ya’ll…I’ve been on my share of slides, but this slide was the fastest one I have ever been on! Again, there was music and kids dancing and singing. When I shot out of the slide and landed on the floor, there were teachers helping you up and a then a student handed you a slide certified sticker. This was like a rite of passage!
Following the certification, we transitioned into Kim Bearden’s book release party for her new book, Talk to Me. I had one goal for going to RCA and that was to get a picture with Ron Clark. I found him with a line of seven people behind him so I bee-lined it over there and got in line. Finally it was my turn. BUTTERFLIES! BUTTERFLIES! BUTTERFLIES! We got our picture together and then he asked where I was from and couldn’t believe I was there alone. He then proceeded to take my phone and take a selfie of us. Not trying to toot my own horn at all, but he didn’t take a selfie with anyone else in line when I was there so we’re pretty much BFFs. 🙂 And just like that day one was complete.
The next day I woke up so energized and pumped to get back to RCA. We started out the day with a house competition. If you are not familiar with the house system that RCA has implemented, stay tuned. RCA (staff and students) is divided into four houses: Amistad, Reveur, Altruismo, and Isibindi. Each house means something different. On this day, we were supposed to wear the shirt for the house of our choice. I chose Reveur which is the house of dreamers, the go getters. The energy in the gym during this house competition was unbelievable! Everyone was having so much fun and our passion was showing through.
Following this, we went to more valuable workshops and classroom observations. Ya’ll…the entire school is so intricately decorated and it all totally fits the Harry Potter theme. The day went so fast and pretty soon Ron was doing his closing speech along with Kim. I wanted to cry when it was over because it was amazing and I didn’t want it to end.
I learned so many valuable things, but I believe that the most important thing I learned is if you want a change to happen or you have a vision for your classroom or school, YOU need to be the change because it starts with you. There was a quote that sat above the main door at RCA that really resonates with me: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Do something different with me and join the revolution to make education “young, fun, sexy, and hot.” 🙂 ~Kelsey