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.
Ron Clark is the founder of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, a charter school that accepts almost every type of student. (Clark wants to show how his techniques can be done with any type of student in any classroom). Clark invites teachers to visit his school to witness the magic.
His story is the story of most Hollywood teachers: naive, white teacher from North Carolina desires to do something “meaningful” and packs up his shit and heads to Harlem.
Stop me, if you’ve heard this before.
Eventually, Clark wins accolade after accolade and shows up on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now he’s a public speaker and self-made man who focuses on ending “molasses classes”—those death-by-boredom classes that seem to go on forever.
How do we do end such boredom?
By creating memories for students.
Rule #54 (in Ron Clark’s classroom): “Carpe Diem. You only live today once, so don’t waste it.”
When I taught Social Studies, I was known around the school for doing some pretty strange things.
Exhibit A. Students Standing On Desks?
I wanted to show that because Japan is such a small country, courtesy and manners must be strictly observed. I put two students at ten tables.
“Welcome to Australia. How’s it feel?”
I took away a couple of tables and forced nine more students up.
“Welcome to the United States. How’s it going?”
The students looked uncomfortable with their bodies so close.
Without warning, I took away all but two tables, forcing most of the students to hop to the floor. “In order to win homework passes for next week,” I said, “the eleven of you must fit on top of these two tables.”
Like a great reality TV show host, I added another twist: “… with an additional three more people! You have three minutes. If you don’t succeed, everyone else in the class gets homework passes, but not you. Go.”
I should mention these were middle-school Honors students.
The life lesson? The students understood the stated learning objective.
Sure, I could’ve told students what I wanted them to know, but then I wouldn’t have had 14 twelve- and thirteen year-olds acting like medieval Japanese farmers in my classroom.
Make it happen and make it magical. That’s the call of the Magical Teacher.
Evin Shinn is a reality television connoisseur who teaches middle school Language Arts and AVID as a side job. Besides knowing who was voted off the island or received the last rose, Evin balances life by renewing his faith, developing his friendships, focusing on his fitness, and becoming a champion teacher and role model for his 7th and 8th graders. An advocate of students learning core knowledge, Evin believes the Myth of the Magical Teacher isn’t a myth at all—it happens everyday in classrooms around the world. You can find out how he wants education to change at talkingabouttyee.wordpress.com or follow his life on Instagram orTwitter.