Ron Clark stood before a class of rapt students, pointing to numbers on a chalkboard. Then, in a surprising twist to any unsuspecting onlooker, he said “That is just so..,” the signal for students to join him in a math song. Suddenly the class erupted and replied by singing and snapping their fingers, “Easy, so easy,” the students sang out.
Clark is the founder of the acclaimed Ron Clark Academy in south Atlanta, a non-profit, private middle school that opened in 2007 for students in fifth through eighth grades.
We’re trying to lift the spirits of our students so they’ll be excited and they’ll be eager to learn.
In addition to the school administration, he actually teaches, too. And he seems to be a combination performer and teacher as he leads his class in a lesson that is part song, part math problem, and part just plain old fun.
“Students tend to follow the lead of the teacher. So if the teacher has passion, if he or she is excited and they really want to be there, kids will tend to be excited as well,” Clark explained.
And his class was very excited in what seemed like a very basic math lesson, as they yelled and sang out the answers while Clark danced across the front of the room leading them on and asking them questions about the equation at hand.
“So I try to be in a good mood. I try to be happy. I try to use passion. I’m using songs, dance, energy because I want my classroom to be a place where kids want to be,” the American Graduate Champion said.
The students in his classroom really seemed to want to be there, too, if their reaction to the math lesson was any indication. They were all very engaged in the subject and seemed to be having a lot of fun as they learned.
Clark’s approach may seem unusual, even a little odd, but the former national Teacher of the Year at his previous school in Harlem, New York takes his method of teaching very seriously.
“If students want to be in your class or in your school, they’re going to probably want to learn as well and they’re going to be excited about learning.
Clark said his approach to the lesson and his teaching strategy are pretty simple.
“I tell my teachers, ‘Dust is falling on the students. You have to come to this side of the room to stir it up. Come over here and stir up this side of the room.’”
He jumped up on a desk and the students followed his lead. He tried to make sure every student was engaged in the math lesson and participating in the high-energy lesson as the class chanted to a drum beat and yelled out math answers in unison
“When a teacher has passion and he’s really excited about what he’s teaching, then that is going to be seen by every child in the classroom.”
But the academy also balances out the energetic teaching method with a strict code of discipline. Its mission is clearly stated: “To deliver the highest quality educational experience where global citizens are born through advanced rigor, engaging teaching methods, and a passionate climate and culture.”
The school believes song and dance has a positive effect on students and it is part of many lessons at the academy.
“The drums, the music, the energy, people are attracted to it. They’re drawn to it. It makes us all smile,” Clark added.
“When you walk into a classroom and music is playing, it just lifts your spirit. And we’re trying to lift the spirits of our students so they’ll be excited and they’ll be eager to learn.
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