Our day of amazing fun began the minute we entered the building. We were greeted with loud music and kids clapping, dancing and singing. The students surrounded us, shaking our hands as they introduced themselves to us. The asked us questions and engaged us in conversation.
Once all of the visiting educators were inside the building, Ron and his co -ounder Kim Bearden welcomed us and gave us the itinerary for the day.
My first stop was Ron's 5th grade math class. Music was playing, kids were singing while dancing on chairs and table tops. (GASP) kids standing on chairs- it looked like a ton of fun! As the music volume lowered the kids returned to their seats and the learning began. There was a constant exchange of ideas and questions. Kids were popping up out their chairs as they stated their ideas clearly, loudly and making eye contact with those around them.
There was no raising of hands, but a clear understanding by all students of what the process for speaking and participating was. At different times, a drum would thump, a chant or dance would break out and then back to teaching, talking and learning. The students shared their ideas, defened their rational and respectfully explained to each other where they went wrong in solving their equation. After only a few minutes of observation it was clear that the kids had all been taught how to engage and interact with each other. At one point Mr. Clark had a student come up to the class to teach while Mr. Clark observed and graded the student on his teaching performace. He was expected to face the students, feet forward even while writing on the touch board. He was expected to look at the students, making eye contact, just as Mr. Clark did. Together the students worked to solve the math question.
Next we went to watch Ms. Barnes' students practice their production of Twelve Angry Men. The students performed while we watched to give some feedback in the end. Just by observing you could tell that Ms. Barnes had an awesome rep ore with her students.
Dr. Jones Math class was another amazing class to watch students work together in pairs to solve math equations. The Promithean tables they used were amazing. The table allowed them to draw out their work and thoughts in different colors, erase quickly and try again. The students were solving for the area of a polygon. I was impressed with how quick their minds worked, talking out loud each step.
We stopped by Hope King's classroom. Her room was amazing. She of course was phenomenal!!! Check out this Alice in Wonderland room. Who wouldn't want to be a student here.
Then we were back with Mr. Clark, walking and talking throughout the school as he explained a little more about the history, its philosophy and how they have come to have so many wonderful educational tools. Basically almost everything in that school was donated by companies. It was clear that Mr. Clark doesn't take "no" for an answer.
The school was built by the community. Through perseverance Ron and Kim convinced community members to support its students and after theree long years the school opened to serve students in Atlanta and give them the most amazing education possible.
Lunch was a whole different experience. We ate lunch with the students, giving us the opportunity to ask them questions about their experiences at the academy . They were eager to answer our questions. Then they turned the conversation around asking us questions about what we teach and where, and asking us about why we wanted to come to their school. These students may only be in fifth through eight grade, but they can hold a conversation better than many adults.
After lunch we had some time to explore the school and snap a few photos before our last teacher engagement which was in Kim Bearden's room. Kim is such a fun and inspirational person and her classroom reflects her personality. Listening to her story and hearing her passion made me a bit teary eyed.
Of course we had to do a group selfie with Ron. He's really good at taking selfies.
Slide Certified. When it was time for us to be slide certified, I was super excited to have a chance to slide down the enormous twisty two story slide. When it became my turn, the two students working the slide yelled "HEAD FIRST" So head first it was. Ir was was such a blast that I had to do it 3 more times.
When I returned to my classroom, I was still on the RCA cloud. I reread his Essential 55 rules and picked a few to start with. Teaching kindergarten I know that implementing all 55 would be such a huge undertaking, but I can begin with just a few. So I started with two:
Make eye contact. When someone is speaking, keep your eyes on him or her at all times. If someone makes a comment, turn and face that person.
Rule 14“Answer all questions with a complete sentence.
Rule 14 is something we are always working on. The majority of my students are ELL.They need to know how to say a complete sentence, so why not start in kindergarten.
So if you ever find yourself in Atlanta- make sure you make the extra effort to spend a day at RCA. It is worth every penny.