Ron Clark Academy

At the beginning of my teaching career I remember coming home and my mom telling me I needed to watch Oprah. There was a teacher named Ron Clark on her show and he had an amazing story and a new book. I was so inspired, and as Ron said in our training, “Oprah held that book to her bosom and told me to buy his book”, and I did.  I bought his book, The Essential 55 the very next day. 
When my friend Hope King told me her sweet, talented husband was going to work for Ron Clark Academy, I wasn’t surprised.  If there ever was a teaching power couple, it would be the Kings. They are downright amazing!  And of course… Hope was in Atlanta for a hot minute before she was working for the Academy as well.  
I have been blessed through blogging in many ways, but the biggest blessing has been the friendships I’ve made.  These girls aren’t my “blogging” friends, they are some of my best friends.  Each year, as good friends do, we take a girls trip. This year just happened to be the perfect combination of our love for teaching and our love for spending time with each other.  
So we headed to Atlanta to visit our friend Hope and watch Hope and her husband Wade in action, at Ron Clark Academy.  And let me just tell y’all, it was one of the most amazing teaching experiences of my life. 
As we stood outside a large iron gate waiting to enter, an energetic man in blue came zipping out of the gates to lead us in.  Just picture Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, because folks it was straight out of the movie! He led us into a beautiful library complete with a trampoline and students cheering, singing and teachers jumping!  The energy at the academy is contagious. 
After an introduction from the sweet Kim Bearden, cofounder of the Academy and a powerful speech from Ron, we were on our way to observe in the classrooms, attend workshops and take in the magic that is RCA.  
Can y’all imagine if this was your school? I mean, how could you not love to come? 
The teachers at RCA are beyond talented, the students are downright amazing, and the lessons I learned were so powerful.  In addition, it was one of those times, where you never want to leave, but can’t wait to get home and share everything you learned with every teacher you know.  I felt so inspired and empowered I wanted to run back to my classroom, jump on a table and teach my heart out.  And lets just talk about the students! The most polite, witty, smart kids you’ll ever meet. Friends, the math these kids were doing in 5th grade, made me darn glad I taught 1st grade. They are brilliant!  I wanted to grab them up, put them in my pocket and take them home.  
Kim and Ron both did workshops that were so inspirational and of course I cried.  And I must say they bragged on our sweet Hope and I cried again.  I’m just so darn proud of her! And this is why… 
Yep… That’s the door to Hope’s classroom.  Her creativity is endless.  Her passion for teaching is beyond compare, and work ethic is unmatched.  She gives Ron Clark a run for his money. They are seriously somehow related.  And this would be her room…
And it’s still not finished. I can’t wait to see when it’s complete. 
At the end of the school day, we got slide certified.  Thank goodness this girl didn’t flip upside down, because darn y’all, that slide is slippery. But,  I love what that slide stands for.  It stands for being different, being a risk taker, teaching with passion and motivating your students.  It reminds me to not take the stairs, think of new ways to teach the mundane and make it something every student is excited to learn.  
And then you’d think our day would be done… but friends, we’re at RCA with Hope King. And if y’all didn’t know, that girl doesn’t sleep.  So we kept right on and followed her to the very first basketball game in their new gym.  And in Ron Clark and Kim Bearden fashion, there was nothing ordinary about this middle school basketball game.  And I mean nothing! From a floor that was on fire, to smoke, score boards the size of my classroom and kids running the music, this game was nothing short of amazing.  I’ll warn you though, DO NOT SIT DOWN! Ron Clark will fuss you out! You better stand, cheer, sing and dance at all times.  It’s hard not too anyway. It’s such a powerful crowd and their energy is contagious.  
So y’all! Tell Starbucks you’ll be back later and start saving, because this trip is worth every penny! Every teacher in America should go.  Run…don’t walk! It will change your teaching forever and make your teaching heart so full! 

(Photos courtesy of RCA)

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Michelle Oakes

Wife, mom of 2 boys and a bulldog, reading specialist, Target frequenting lover of fashion, home decorating, Cincinnati girl.

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