Upon arriving at Margaret St. in Atlanta, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the old brick buildings in front of me. Words like Altruismo and Amistad were written above the sturdy gate leading into the school, and the faces of a few smiling children could be seen inside the facilities. I thought that I could hear music from the outskirts of the building, but I dismissed the thought as a song that was stuck in my head from the car ride. Immediately after opening the doors, I found myself joyfully proved wrong.
Music was playing, and the tour guides I expected to shake hands with were actually some of the students themselves. Looking around, I couldn’t help but notice the big blue slide leading from the top floor to my feet, or the colorfully painted walls decorated with pictures of smiling students and teachers. I was surprised as a 4’8’’ middle schooler proceeded to lead me through the history of her school while engaging each of the adults in the room. This girl is not an anomaly at this place, and after touring this oasis in education; it’s obvious that something is different.
Ron spoke to the kids as if he were training executives, but taught them with a passion beyond comparison. One of the students actually got up and taught the class, finishing the algebraic inequality while clapping along with the mathematical victories of his fellow classmates. This boy was not simply completing the problem, but like Mr. Clark, he was ardently engaging the students as he brought them into the close of the class hour. As the boy asked mathematical trivia, the students responded within seconds at the same time. I had forgotten that I was in one of the most prestigious schools in the nation, as I dived into the passion filled academy of Ron Clark.
I had forgotten that I was in one of the most prestigious schools in the nation, as I dived into the passion filled academy of Ron Clark.
These students, these kids, and the teachers themselves are authentically passionate and it pours out into the classroom. Ron Clark has not simply done it right, he has done it phenomenally well. Education has certainly been a battlefield for unenthused students and discouraged educators, since many gifted students soar through classes and the rest get lost in the crowd. At Ron Clark, the gifted students set the pace in each class, and the rest of the class is pushed to hit that academic mark. This feat would be considered a fool’s endeavor in most academic environments, but there it is the norm. That’s right, students from across the intellectual field not only hit the bar set by the gifted students, but they raise it. The classrooms are teeming with students who struggled in the classroom and students who excelled in their schools, yet it was near impossible to tell who was who.
The students clap and cheer as each question is answered successfully, while engaging joyfully with their teacher. It was a rare time when a question was answered incorrectly, but when it happened, the student body turned to encourage their fellow classmate. The class atmosphere was filled with laughter and enthusiasm as drums were beat to the tune of success. There wasn’t a single student who could be found disengaged from the teacher, as they were all decoding and solving the problems in unison. The classroom sounded more and more like a chorus as the students symphonically engaged the subject. I was lost in wonderland, but Mr. Clark has proved that wonderland is real, and he has invited everyone to come be a part of his revolution in academics.
It was a rare time when a question was answered incorrectly, but when it happened, the student body turned to encourage their fellow classmate.