What Ron Clark Taught Me about Being a Magical Teacher (or “Make It Happen: The Importance of Making Memories”)
The Essential 55.
It was the first teaching book I ever bought and was written by him. The American Teacher Awards Teacher of the Year, Ron Clark.
Yes, I watch the American Teacher Awards.
Yes, I was only a junior in high school.
I’ve known since I was little I wanted to be a teacher. When I was seven, I made my own whiteboard out of a white lap-desk and Crayola markers I got for Christmas. It didn’t take long before I was lecturing my stuffed animals on the importance of learning. (My teddy bear was the most out of control student.)
In fourth grade I got a real whiteboard and never looked back.
I look at him and he looks at me. His shirt says, “F–k the Police” next to a picture of a gun. Literally. The u, the c, they’re dashes on the shirt. And it’s funny because I read the shirt as if I didn’t know that “–” stood for those letters. F and K the Police I hear in my mind.
He stands in front of me with a smirk. The assignment sits on the desk in front of me, and he seems proud.
“The gun on your shirt… not so appropriate for school,” I say in front of him and his friends.
“It’s not like I’m gonna rip it off and start shooting people. It’s a gun on a shirt, bro. Don’t worry about it.”
Melissa is seventeen, headed (probably) to the University of Texas and is, by all accounts, wonderful. She wears jeans with stitched designs and cardigans with little woven flourishes. She’s on the executive committee of the Service Club. She makes straight A’s and takes AP tests.
We’re far enough into the year to see the end of student teaching for you, but can I say? I continue to struggle. I feel at war with fourth period. So many students in fourth period have problems from the news: illiteracy, apathy, goldfish memories, hummingbird focus… I asked to see Yourhigness’ assignment the other day, but he wouldn’t show me the paper. At first he was preoccupied eating a carton of macaroni salad and egg rolls over the corner garbage can, but when he got to his seat he still wouldn’t show me. He covered the paper with his arms. “Part of my job is to monitor your writing,” I said. He held the paper up and said, “I’ll read it out loud.” After two or three sentences of reading, he looked me in the eye and kept talking as if the words on the page had slid off the edge and were dangling in the air between us. “Are you reading?” I interrupted. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m reading.”
I’m writing from a Saturday class I have to take to keep my Career & Technical Education Certificate. (Journalism is cross-credited so I need both CTE and English endorsements.) I’m trying to pay attention to the instructor but keep thinking about the students we share, especially Yourhighness and Cordonte. I love that you took time during 4th period to talk one-on-one with Yourhighness and answer his questions about college: where you went, how to get in, the cost. Forging relationships like this will make your teaching more powerful and our students’ learning more meaningful, and I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here: spend some time focusing on what you want to know.
My teacher just said, “Sometimes I think I should go back to teaching high school and relax.” Ha! After he told us about a Hawaiian vacation. Other than this once-a-month class, what else is he doing? Lugging elk meat through the North Cascades? I’m 20% of the students here. It’s Saturday. How did I get in The Breakfast Club?
Anyway, onto your questions—starting with the easiest and ending with the hardest.
What are some of the best methods for communicating with parents? What are some good ways for a teacher to relate to students and develop camaraderie? What do teachers gain from professional development?
A new teacher I know asked these questions. Tomorrow on Magical Teaching, I answer them honestly.
His father had died. Cancer. Lung, stomach, bone, blood. Where was it not?
Reached too late.
Mom is surviving. Nothing new. Eleven year-old sister—Patrícia as pronounced in her native español—and a brother too young to remember his father. She was to perform in the choir in twenty minutes. Tenemos solo la esperanza. Ahora, eres el hombre, Oscar.
He surveyed the room with narrow eyes. He was distant then, revisiting someplace that was simpler. Eight o’clock bells and a drowsiness steeped in blocks of text.
“I don’t remember any of my classes here… except this one.”