Tuesday, June 24, 2014

11 Amazing Things at the Ron Clark Academy

As many of you know, I will be leaving RCA at the end of this year.  Due to the extensive travel that the job involved, I was not able to spend as much time as I would have liked to with Ryder.  For the past four years, however, I have experienced professional and personal growth and experiences that some people don't meet in their lifetimes.  I have spent the last couple of weeks reminiscing and reflecting on my time at RCA, but I wanted to find a way to really express how amazing this school really is, so I decided to do a list of them:

(In no particular order)

1) The staff: It's rare to find a harder working and more dedicated group of adults who strive for greatness and truly want to make an impact on each of the students day in and day out.  This is shown in their willingness to work with the kids before, during, and after school, have multiple clubs/activities outside of school hours, take kids on reward trips, go to students' houses to help out, and the list goes on and on.  They are also the most creative people I've ever met.  When someone dreams up something big to do, it gets done.  They find ways to "make it happen."

2) Visitations: I loved the rush of adrenaline I got each week when I saw a group of a hundred fifty to two hundred educators waiting outside of our gates waiting to check out the school.  When you're teaching and you see those educators walking into your room it's like a red light turns on because you know that they're watching you like they would a movie; studying every detail and taking it in.

3) The mystique: The mystery and secrets that exist within the walls of RCA are special.  Few outsiders know all of the secrets that exist at the school, and it's neat experiencing the traditions and moments with classes as they come in.  From midnight school to wheel spins to the first day, there are many special things that the staff puts time and energy into that few people realize.

4) The teamwork: To make this school possible, you truly need all hands on deck.  The events that we put on alone could demand an entire crew, but to have students, staff, and parents make it happen on a regular basis is truly phenomenal.  I've never seen a place where people are consistently asking, "What can I do to help?" and mean it.  When you work together, magical things can happen!

5) The houses: The competition, camaraderie, and the excitement that houses create make school so much more exciting.  It's one thing for the kids to get into something like this, but when you have the entire RCA community into it, the fun really begins.  It's been amazing to see how the houses create families within a family, helping shy or lonely students feel a part of something and struggling students find support when needed.  It's a great system and one that can change the dynamics of any school. 

6) The trips: I have been so fortunate to travel around the world because of RCA.  Japan, South Africa, Turkey, Prague, Germany, New York, Washington DC are just some of the places I've been able to travel to with students as we get to experience the world together.  The trips, whether abroad or local, are a great time to get to know the students more, especially outside of the classroom setting.  It's more casual, so you really get to know their personalities and they get to see that you are a real person as well.

7) Model UN: Four years ago Gina and I started the Model UN club, and it has been one of the most fun parts about working at RCA.  Along with competing at conferences, I have seen first-hand how much being a member of the team pushes students to become stronger speakers, more adept at researching, and knowledgeable about world issues.  It's been a great opportunity to meet people from around the world as well, as we travel to conferences and meet advisors from countries that I usually only see on a map!

8) The Pace: People always comment on how fit the staff members look; well that's typically because we never stop moving.  There is something to be said about never sitting down.  There is always something going on at RCA, whether it is teaching a class, doing a workshop, practicing with your team, going on a trip, tutoring, or you name it, it's a busy place!  Because of that, there's never a dull moment, and that keeps people on their toes, which I really enjoy.  It's nice when you know people are always working their hardest.

9) The parents: I've been fortunate enough to have great parents in many schools I've worked at over the years, and RCA's parents are right up there!  They are willing to help at a moment's notice, and will support any of the crazy or last minute requests we have of them!  They have become integral to the success of the educator trainings, especially as they have grown exponentially, because we need guides throughout the day.  It's also a pleasure getting to know them outside of the classroom as well, whether at car pool or at our events or just hanging around on the couches in the lobby.

10) The students: There would be no RCA without the kids.  We have amazing students, and they do some amazing things.  Honestly, any child in the country is capable of doing what we ask of our students, but few ever get the opportunity to.  RCA students rise to the high expectations of the school academically, socially, and behaviorally, and that is why we are able to put them in front of a television camera, take them around the world, or send them to boarding schools on six digit scholarships.  They learn quickly how to bounce back from setback and how to use feedback as a tool.  They find ways to overcome shyness and develop into confident presenters.  They realize that an A is earned, not given, and that consequences are a part of life.  They discover the game of life, and have frequent opportunities to practice it with adults, setting them up for bright futures.  I will miss many things about RCA, but I will miss the students the most.

11) The moments: There are so, so many!  Some of my top though: getting my RCA jacket, seeing President Obama drive past us in NYC, standing on top of the roof of RCA to teach a lesson about Pythagorean Theorem, staff step show on the first day of school, presenting in front of 100 California Superintendents, doing training in Honduras, Imani winning Best Delegate in Prague, Brenton dancing up on stage in Istanbul with the dais, Sim City with Maestra, Civil War day with Coss and 2014, M^3, picture with Maya Angelou, nights at the Bearden and Coss house, very first Blue Dragon basketball game, DC spy mission trip with 2015, the Bull Run, Spartan Race, bringing 2016 kids to Maryland for training, tacky prom outfits, trips to Wake Forest, Elvis costume, celebrating my "49th" birthday with 2014. 


  1. I'm currently reading Mr. Clark's "The End of Molasses Classes" and this Midnight School sounds so cool. What is it, how does it work and what was the outcome? Thanks!

  2. Midnight School is a special ceremony for our rising 8th graders each year. Much of the happenings are secret, but we do have bonding time between the staff and students. We bring them in at midnight into the school, hence the name, and have various activities and ceremonies to welcome them to their final year with us.