Sunday, February 5, 2017

THE Experience at Ron Clark Academy

Our staff with the most passionate and innovative educator ever, Mr. Ron Clark.

In August of last year I sent an email to my staff letting them know I wanted to take some teachers with me to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. I told them I would tell them more about it at our next staff meeting but wanted to give them a heads up. Teachers didn’t want to wait to find out more. Immediately I received emails back asking more questions, teachers texting me letting me know they would do whatever they had to do to be able to go, and teachers stopping by my office wanting to know more.

Here are just some of the emails I received:

-This is a DREAM opportunity! I am in awe of the RCA. I have so always wanted to go - I've read most of his books as well as Kim Bearden's and they are truly amazing. Just wow! I cannot wait to apply!

-I just went from half asleep to so excited!!!! I love Ron Clark!!

-Seriously this is the best Monday news ever!!! I love Ron Clark and his theory on education. Wow! What a treat this would be for our staff. You know I will be applying! Thank you for arranging this amazing opportunity for our staff!
I surprised the six teachers that were going with a RCA Golden Ticket from me.

As you can see, teachers were excited. They love Ron Clark and wanted to meet him and see his school. After an application process and working out the details for fundraising, six teachers were chosen to come to RCA with me in February. The educator training is called The Ron Clark Academy Experience. Like all of my teachers going, I probably focused mostly on the name Ron Clark. I didn’t realize I should have been paying more attention to that last word, “experience.”

Fantastic writing workshop with Ms. Haskins.

When you go to RCA you are excited to meet Ron Clark. What I wasn’t fully prepared for was to have the most amazing educational “experience” I have ever had. The feeling you get when you walk through the door and Mr. Clark is there to shake your hand and welcome you is something I will never forget. There is music playing, kids cheering you on, and magic in the air. Our entire team that went was amazed as students welcomed us and asked us questions about our school, where we were from, and then answered our questions about their school. The students that welcomed the six teachers from Stoneridge and myself were 5th graders. I had never seen 5th graders who could carry on a conversation and ask meaningful questions the way these students did. They were better speakers than probably 75% of people I have interviewed. A lot of times when you are excited and build something up in your mind it doesn’t live up to what you were expecting. I could tell this Experience would be different.

Officially RCA Slide Certified

The Experience includes going into classrooms and watching some of the best teachers in our country teaching students. It includes getting to hear Kim Bearden and Ron Clark talk about everything from loving kids and how to work with staff to help move your bus forward. The Experience includes getting to talk with their amazing kids at lunch. You get to pick your house and feel part of their team as you learn new chants and cheers and take pride in wearing house colors. You get to talk to teachers about what they do at RCA and ask questions about how you can help implement some of that magic back at your school. You get to go down the slide. The Experience also includes getting to see room setups and how the walls are decorated to make students and families feel like it is about them. You do lessons with teachers, discuss how to require students to think deeper, and how they need to be more engaged, hear students do chants and cheers and sing songs about academic content. And if you are lucky like I was to go with people on your staff, you get to discuss and start figuring out how you are going to bring some of that same magic you see at RCA back to your school.

It doesn't take long to take pride in your House

Immediately after each day at RCA, my teachers and I started discussing all we had seen and learned. There was so much that they want to implement but they also know you can’t implement it all at once. Two things we agreed we should implement school wide are the House system and also having set rules around behavior and etiquette that we teach all students. The last thing we talked about is giving our students experiences that they will remember. Staff members at RCA talk about it, but that was my one challenge to my teachers when we left. Give your students at least on experience between now and the end of the school year that they will remember the rest of their lives. I’m sure some teachers might aim for more than one but at least give them one. That also goes for me, I challenge myself to give our staff at least one experience they will remember forever.

Learning from the wonderful Mrs. Barnes.  I might be a little biased but our thought our Blues performance was the best.  

I would like to thank all of the staff members at RCA for making it such an amazing trip. Your energy and passion is second to none. You open your classroom doors to thousands of educators every year and every single one of you is truly inspiring. Thank you to the students at RCA for welcoming us and showing us what students are capable of if we hold them to high expectations. Thank you Ron Clark for being such a wonderful person and starting a school where other educators can come and learn. Thank you to Melissa Oxenham, Sara Franco, Erin Roberts, Christi Robertson, Jill Reidt, and Dalen Pointer for going with me on this trip and being dedicated to bringing change to our school and students. My two days at the Ron Clark Academy is an experience I will never forget. It was life-changing and I will never look at anything in education the same way. I know it is called the Ron Clark Academy Experience, but for me I will think about it as THE Experience that changed my life in education forever.

All of us with Kim Bearden


  1. You did an amazing job putting this experience into words! So grateful to have been able to attend - especially with our fun, passionate, and driven staff!

  2. Thanks for sharing BB! What an epic, life changing Experience! Wowza

  3. I am so happy it was everything you were hoping and more!!!!

  4. Wow, what an experience! That's something I'll bet your teachers will carry with them for the rest of their careers ... and hopefully, it'll start rubbing off in classes with students soon too!

  5. I remember seeing him and the students at ISTE in Denver. I hope that other schools in the area will benefit from your team going. It's so great to hear administrators bringing back a life changing experience to our area. We are lucky to have you in Roseville. I'm lucky to have you in my "tribe". Can't wait to hear more.