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Ron Clark: Help your best teachers

Ron Clark speaking at Magna

Photo courtesy of Lifetouch Photography

Schools are like buses. Some teachers are runners; others are joggers and walkers. Then there are riders. “The true problem is the people sitting on the bus,” said Ron Clark. “They drag everyone down.”

Clark, former Teacher of the Year and the founder of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, spoke at the School Leaders Luncheon Saturday at NSBA’s annual conference in Nashville. During his presentation, he moved constantly throughout the room, jumping up on empty chairs and making eye contact with the audience.

He did this, he said, to show how teachers should be teaching their classes. At his school – a private school that acts as a teaching laboratory – teacher don’t sit. They don’t even have seats or desks in their classrooms.

“We are up and moving. We have no time to sit down. We have a sense of urgency,” he said. “We don’t need to extend the school days. We need to improve the quality of the day we have.”

Clark explained his school bus analogy: The runners are the teachers who are “flat killing it. They are the head of the clubs; they come early, they stay late, and kids love them.” Joggers are not runners, but they are doing OK.

Walkers are trying to slow everyone down. “If you stop doing so much, they can walk at a more casual pace.”

But the riders, the teachers who, as Clark said, “pass out worksheets and say, shut up and do your work,” are the biggest drag on schools. When he started out as a principal, he made it his mission to work with one of the “riders” to get her to improve.

He realized, he told the audience, that he’d put a great deal of effort moving a rider to a walker. She was never going to be a runner, he said. The attention of administrators should be on helping and supporting the runners. “Some runners are beat down,” he said. “Your job is to protect those runners. Protect them and everything will fall into place.”

Also at the luncheon, which was sponsored by Sodexo and American School Board Journal, the winners of the 2015 Magna Awards were honored.

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