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I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother.  Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing.  Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

What I took away from RCA

First, let me start by saying how privileged I felt to be able to visit the Ron Clark Academy.  I will not deny how incredibly stressful it was to plan for (as the other teachers who went can vouch for, as well), but the experience will stick with me forever and will hopefully impact my role as a teacher for the rest of my teaching career.  I also enjoyed bonding with the five other teachers who traveled with me.  I think we made a good team.

Here are some pics from our trip. Below them, I will list the ten top things I took away from the experience.

"At the heart of RCA is a huge, two-story, electric-blue tube slide; it's how you get from the second floor of RCA to the first, and it is quite a doozy of a ride! When visitors get to the bottom, they are given a sticker saying they have all been 'slide-certified,' and teachers come from all over the world to obtain the sticker as proof that they have been inside the school that is revolutionizing education. The slide screams our mission: 'Be different. Be bold. Don't do things the same way they have always been done. Instead of taking stairs like everyone else, slide! Go for it and live with no fear!'" (p. xxv, The End of Molasses Classes, Ron Clark.)

Officially slide certified! I didn't know they were going to make me go down head-first!

Ron Clark

Giant, colorful, vibrant pictures of the students line the hallways everywhere you look. I think it's part of the magic--capturing every moment of learning and of life.

Ron Clark will use any kind of platform he can to address his audience and keep their attention, except, of course, the floor.

The motto above the doorway as you are leaving. "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Kim Bearden, the cofounder of the school. I resonated deeply with her story and look forward to her coming to visit Garland ISD next year. (Notice, even she chose a trampoline rather than the floor.)
What used to be an old, dilapidated building....now a beautiful school and training grounds for thousands of teachers every year.

My new friends who braved the frigid temps with me in search of the Starbucks we never found.

Burrr. Sure was cold in Atlanta!

So, here are my top ten take-aways from the experience:

  1. Your classroom houses a family that needs to be taught how to love and respect each other at all times.
  2. Capture the magic of learning through candid pictures and post them all over the room and the school.
  3. Give kids ownership of their learning. Teach them how to learn from each other and then back up so they have space to do just that.
  4. Prior knowledge needs to be verbalized often so kids can constantly build upon what they already know.
  5. Privileges/rewards must be earned. You have to work hard for them. Plain and simple.
  6. Don't lower the bar. Raise it. Kids can and will rise to the level of expectation set for them if you properly engage them and involve them in their learning.
  7. Smile. Make eye contact with all of your students, all the time.
  8. Use unconventional methods to keep enthusiasm for learning alive.
  9. Pick up the pace. Keep them moving, striving to keep up, always wanting to know more.
  10. Have fun! You are the one who sets the tone for the day, the week, the year--possibly for life.
'What a fun 24 hours.'

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