College students and educators gathered in the Bloomer Sullivan Arena on the Southeastern Oklahoma State University campus to be inspired by a man who is dubbed “America’s Educator.”
Ron Clark is the founder of the Ron Clark Academy, two-time New York Times bestselling-author and subject of a television movie.
While Clark runs his academy during the school year, he travels the country inspiring educators during summer break.
It is his teaching style that has gotten him his reputation. Clark touched on how he engages not only the children in his school but the teachers as well.
He classified teachers into three categories, runners, joggers and walkers. He said that instead of going with the normal behavior of trying to get the walkers more motivated and neglecting the runners, he tries to encourage the ones already giving their best.
“I treat my teachers fairly, not equally,” said Clark.
He encouraged educators and education students present to find the “runners” at their schools and stay with them.
He warned attendees not to let the walkers suck them in. He has a similar approach to students as well. He strives to reward students who are giving their best and thus encouraging others to do their best as well.
Clark told stories of his early years in teaching and how his tactics were not immediately accepted by either administration or students.
Clark said that he got into some trouble over the years by not treating students the same but instead rewarding those who worked hardest.
“We’re raising them to perform in a socialist society,” said Clark, commenting on how children are praised for work they don’t do and given things they have not earned.
Over the years, Clark developed his teaching method which engaged and challenged students by introducing teachers who had energy and innovative ideas.
Clark said that at his school, teachers do not sit down during class periods and their hands should be above their waists at least 60 percent of the class period.
He encourages teachers to engage with students and make students aware that they care for them. He said if students do not feel that a teacher cares, they will not put in as much effort.
Clark also gave an overview of his school which included a tunnel slide, school houses, and a bungee trampoline in the library.
He said he will also be adding a Hogwarts-inspired building complete with dragons. Clark is a fan of the “Harry Potter” collection written by J.K. Rowlings.
Clark revealed to the crowd how he receives enough funding and donations to do such things.
“It’s about building relationships and showing appreciation,” said Clark.
He said it is not enough to ask for donations and only see the donor again when you need more.
Donors must know that they are appreciated. He told a story of how a man once donated five dollars and was so moved by the amount of gratitude shown by the school and students that he was moved to donate over $100 the next time and continued to donate.
Clark’s message was followed by a question and answer session and book signing. Proceeds from the books sold go to various educational charities.
For more information about Clark or the Ron Clark Academy, visit www.ronclarkacademy.com.
- Jessica Breger can be reached at (580) 634-2162 or on Twitter @jbreger_news