What do these two have in common? Probably very little for many active, healthy runners (Perhaps that’ll be me one day, but until then, I’ll enjoy my pizza). Hang with me, and I’ll explain! Of course, it all goes back to Ron Clark – I can’t emphasize how much you should read his books. Really, he’s a pretty smart guy. In order to explain, I feel like I should start from the beginning (just of my teaching career, so we’re not going too far back).
As I said previously, I had a nontraditional start in education. I had two weeks to jump from a pretty successful career as a registered nurse into a completely new frontier as a teacher. Knowing I was completely unprepared, I ventured to Barnes and Noble to try to find a “Teaching for Dummies” book (which I found did not exist). I feel like I’m a fairly self-aware person, so I knew my problem probably wouldn’t actually be the information (after much of my life in healthcare, I should probably know that pretty well, right?). I came across Ron Clark’s book, The Essential 55, that discusses how he utilizes soft skills to manage his classroom. “That’s it!” I thought. This guy, whoever he is (apparently he’s pretty famous if he has his own book), is going to help jump start my teaching career. I started reading the book, panicked at the 55 rules he outlines, and promptly put it away not to be seen for quite some time. Remember, I was quitting this teaching gig after the first year.
In November of that first year, I was asked if I’d be interested in going to a conference. Not being one to say no to my boss, I was happy to go. The keynote speaker at the conference (GaETC) was Kim Bearden who co-founded The Ron Clark Academy. I was on the edge of my seat listening to this woman share her story about burnout, feeling “less-than”, and being uncertain in her future. She mentioned The Ron Clark Academy, and I thought, “Wait a second! That’s the guy that wrote that book that I have tucked away in some safe place somewhere in my house” (Don’t judge, we’ve all been there…). There was a video she showed at the end that explains The Ron Clark Academy and depicts people getting “slide certified” which is a metaphor of taking a new path to teaching instead of doing the same thing educators before you have always done. I thought this place seemed really exciting, and I’d love to visit one day; however, I was certain it would never happen. Her story felt genuine, and it gave me a boost as I thought about my future in teaching.
In July of 2014, I was registered for the GACTE conference, and I learned Ron Clark would be the keynote speaker discussing some key points to his new book, The End of Molasses Classes. At this conference, he explained the different types of teachers. I’ll talk about the most important one because that’s who I aspire to be. According to Ron Clark, A runner is a teacher who is “flat killing it. They are the head of the clubs; they come early, they stay late, and kids love them.” I was inspired, excited, and ready to tackle this teaching thing forever! I aspired to be a runner, but the “What-If’s” started coming in. What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m too young? What if I lack experience? What if I fail? What if ______________? Funny, I completely misunderstood him because he said runners will fail, but they’ll pick themselves back up and try something different. Here I was refusing to step up because I was too afraid to fail. A little something about me – I’ve always been successful, I was one of the “smart” ones in school, and I catch onto new concepts quickly. The problem with that is that I hadn’t experienced much failure in my life. When it comes to putting myself out there knowing I’ll endure failure, I hold back.
May 18 of this year, I had the opportunity to finally visit The Ron Clark Academy (the place I was certain I would never see), and it was more than everything I dreamed it would be. I promise, I’ll share everything about it on my next post, but I truly felt I needed a build-up to explain exactly why it was so important that I get to go to this place. As I said in my previous post, Mr. Clark said the average teacher is bread – bread is good, but it’s boring. People add to bread. Instead, teachers should aspire to be pizza. We can pick and choose the toppings we put on it. We can personalize the pizza to our liking. If we try something we don’t like, we can get rid of it! Be pizza.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to me not to share that there have been many people backing me personally who have been truly special and impactful in my career. I had an administrator my first 2 years of teaching who saw me. I’ve always been a person who thinks it’s better not to be noticed by your boss at all because it means you won’t get in trouble. I like to fly under the radar, but she wouldn’t have it. She saw something in me that I didn’t even know was there, yet. She pushed me, guided me, and loved on me.
So….To the point, Pizza and Runners…
This year, I have decided it’s time to put myself out there. Time to embrace the failures Failures mean I tried. Failures mean I learned. For those of us who are teachers, don’t we tell our students it’s ok to fail?! So, I applied for a leadership development program in our state called LEAD CTAE. I was warned that they wouldn’t be accepting many people this year, and I shouldn’t be too upset if I don’t get in. Surprisingly, I was accepted! I speak up at meetings. I try new things in my classroom (Many days, I’m on the edge of my seat hoping and praying nothing goes wrong). I’ve started accepting that I’ll probably hear the word “No” a few times in my career, and it doesn’t mean the person saying it hates me or doesn’t approve of me. I’m also focusing on making myself seen – No more flying under the radar here.
I fail and have made many mistakes this year, but now I share them with my own students in hopes that they understand why failure is truly an opportunity for our greatest growth.
Since I’ve decided I was going to be a Runner eating my Pizza, I have had the great opportunity to witness the greatest growth in both my students and in my classroom. I’m failing left and right, but, here I am – killing it (the good and bad)!
I’ve posted urls to http://www.amazon.com for 2 of Ron Clark’s books above so you can enjoy them if you want to learn more. Also, I’ll share Move Your Bus by Ron Clark and Crash Course by Kim Bearden which I haven’t read but are on my list of books to read. I don’t get any kick-backs from your purchase. I just really believe in their teaching philosophies.