“Believe that every
child can learn, regardless of ethnicity, learning disabilities, emotional or behavior problems, or the economic situation of the family.” ~Ron Clark
I’m almost finished reading Ron Clark’s new book, The End of Molasses Classes: 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers. I’m sure that many of you have heard of Ron Clark, because he’s the author of the Essential 55 and was featured on Oprah several years ago. Or maybe you saw the movie “The Ron Clark Story” in which Matthew Perry played him as a teacher in an inner-city Harlem school. He is well known for working with disadvantaged students to get them engaged in school and become as successful as their (nondisadvantaged) peers.
#38 in this book is: “Believe that every child can learn, regardless of ethnicity, learning disabilities, emotional or behavior problems, or the economic situation of the family.”
Clark describes his experience of teaching “George” how to read in the 5th grade (after getting over the disbelief that he couldn’t read at this grade level). He came up with alternative methods and was patient and persistant with George until he made great progress and became a “decent” student. Several years later after George graduated and served in the Navy he came back and told Mr. Clark’s students, “Work really hard to be the individual that Mr. Clark sees in you. Even if you don’t see it in yourself, sometimes adults just know us a little better than we do.”
I can personally relate to this section of his book due to my experiences growing up. I grew up in a very dysfuntional home that is similiar to some of our most challenging students that, at times, don’t seem to have much of a future. When I share details of my past, people are often surprised and ask how I got to where I am now. I have often pondered that same question, because my sibblings were not as lucky as I. But as I reflect, I also know that my sibblings did not ever seem to have any positive school experiences….but I did. Despite moving around (because we were constantly being evicted) and attending 13 different schools, I was fortunate enough to have some great teachers along the way that saw my potential. I will never forget:
*One of my 3rd grade teachers (I don’t even recall her name because I went to 5 schools that year) that came to my house after I had been absent for several days to bring my schoolwork to me–thinking back, she knew my home situation and was probably just making sure I was safe.
*Mrs. McDevitt, my 5th grade teacher, who never punished me for not having my homework done (because I was babysitting my 3 younger sibblings), but let me come into her classroom early to get it done. I never needed help, just a quiet place to do it without one of the little ones coloring on it.
*Mr. Johnson, my 7th grade math teacher who pushed me to move into 8th Grade Algebra early when I never thought I was capable of it. (I will also never forget when my name was drawn in assembly for a reading contest and I got to shave half of his beard off!)
*Mrs. Staudt, my High School English Teacher who gave me extra time to complete my assignments when she knew that I was up late, because I had worked until midnight at McDonald’s for three nights in a row.
I have debated whether or not to share this with you, because of how personal it is, but still felt compelled to do so. If it were not for great teachers like you, I would not be where I am today. If we as adults don’t see the potential in every child and truly believe that every child can learn, then how can we expect them to have hope and see the potential in themselves? We have to look at them and see what we want them to become.
Photo Credit: CC License shared by David Thiel