I Had a Ron Clark Experience

Ron Clark


Ron Clark

I recently saw Ron Clark speak at a symposium. Ron Clark is a teacher and motivational speaker. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child. Clark is the founder of a charter school, The Ron Clark Academy, in Atlanta, GA. He is a dynamic speaker and fun personality.

Ron Clark likes standing on tables like Robin Williams from that movie.


Clark talked about his first years in education, what inspired him to use out-of-the-box teaching methods, and why he decided to relocate from the south to New York City to teach at a school in Harlem.  Spoiler Alert: Like any great teacher crazy enough to fall in love with the profession, he did it solely for the kids. Kids he hadn’t even met yet.

Clark talked about some of the obstacles he faced with his colleagues as a young, celebrated teacher. We all know sad the truth in any workplace is: when one person has great success and accolades- not everyone is happy about it. Clark encountered a coworker who was less than happy about his early success. She said mean things to him, threw things at him, and pranked him. Clark admitted after prodding from his students and getting fed up with the unprofessional harassment that stooped to her level. She’d say ugly things and put worms by his door. He hid an onion in her desk and was rude. It was a crisis*!

In the end Clark, learned the teacher was going through a ton of personal issues. His participation in the feud only exacerbated her professional and personal issues.  The teacher was also taking her anger out on the students. He observed the students were feeding on their conflict. Clark decided to extend an olive branch by asking her to team teach with him and slapping sugar all over her**.  He showed her that he truly valued her expertise and demonstrated they could learn from one another. This tactic worked. The teacher opened up, and the professional bullying stopped. Eventually, they even became friends.

Clark talked about molasses classes. He said many teachers need to have fun in the classroom more. They need to move from behind the desk and be more active in the classroom. Like Kid President says, “The world needs you to stop being boring”. Clark argued the importance of gifted education in America. In addition, he talked about the importance of not coddling students. Students do not always need to get things if they did not earn them. Students need to understand that if you do not complete a goal then you do not get to reap the rewards. You shouldn’t get a trophy if you don’t win. You can’t get a cookie for everything.

Clark also talked about different types of teachers:

  • Runners– A go-getter. Hard workers who are always giving it their all. Like Buzz Lightyear, they are always trying to go to infinity and beyond.
  • Joggers– They do one school project and do it well. Joggers are good, dedicated workers, but they don’t always go above and beyond besides that one big project they do each year. And good grief, do they go on and on about that one project they do. Joggers are great to have on the team and are necessary. However, they do not always go the extra mile.
  • Walkers– Many walker can do but won’t because they are too busy complaining. Some walkers want to do, but they either don’t know how or just can’t keep up. Coaxing can help some of the walkers.
  • Sitters– These are your do nothings. They do as little as possible and are often unhappy as they are doing that.

I’ve heard a comparison similar with a cruise ship, yacht, tugboat, and dingy analogy. Either way, the point was the same: administrators should focus on the runners and cruise ships. The hardest workers do not require a lot. Encourage and motivate the top. Your motivated walkers and tugboats will grow due to the influence of the go-getters and dedicated workers.


I enjoyed finally being able to see Ron Clark present. His speech was humorous, fun, and motivating. It was pretty cool to experience in person the stories I’ve seen on television and read in his books. I was able to have him sign one of my books and have a picture taken with him which was pretty cool.

I wanted to add one more teacher type to his list: The Interval Trainers

The Interval Trainer is a walker who dresses up in runners clothes. They are the can do/won’t do type. They will put on a dog and pony show and will go on and on about what they do although they aren’t actually doing it. When someone is looking at them, they are running. All other times, they are actually walking.

I understand that the generalization of teachers or any worker is not meant to be taken as an actuality. It is a humorous spoof on what goes on in the workplace. There is so much more to the day to day dynamic of a workplace. But ultimately the end result is the same. Admins should work smarter by encouraging and empowering their aces.

Talking about archetypes in the workplace was humorous. Proclaiming that teachers need to continue to “teach outside of the box” and arguing that  the fact every child shouldn’t always get a cookie was fun. Of course I agree with that; any teacher would. But what I really took away from Ron Clark was passion. Clark gives his kids amazing experiences and opportunities. He sells his books and hits the lecture circuit, but at the end of the day, he is still a teacher. That is what is most amazing about him.

*Ron Clark liked throwing his hand in the air and yelling, “It’s a crisis”. It made me giggle every time.

**To slap sugar- K. Renae P. term for being overly nice to someone in hopes you can get something you want like an object, favor, or specified behavior.  See Also: Butter Up

Note: You can follow me on Twitter if you’d like. No pressure.

14 thoughts on “I Had a Ron Clark Experience

  1. Your #5 wasn’t a silly suggestion it was brilliant! I’ve worked with several people like that, makes me want to put my head down and go to work so I can quit listening.

  2. I love your addition to Clark’s teacher types, Renae! I have used a similar description for my students, explaining to them that the true worth of their character is how they behave when no one is looking! What an inspirational post 🙂

    • Thanks. I was honestly surprised that I enjoyed him so much. Usually with some ed speakers (PDers included), it’s a bunch of jargon and junk that sounds pretty but impossible to implement in the real classroom.

      It was funny, practical stuff that applied to any teacher anywhere. It was nice having a professional comrade say out loud some things we think and experience. Even the stuff we like to keep a secret like professional bullying and pedagogical ruts.

  3. I wonder where I fall on that spectrum – I think I spent some time being all of those teachers. I need to work on my “running”!

    • Ha! This is why I wanted to say something about generalizations. Of course there are many types of workers besides those four ~ five is you add my silly suggestion, and yeah- we are different teachers on different days. But in the end we need to try and keep our feet pounding on the ground.

      I’m always working on my “running” too. But isn’t that what real runners & quick moving joggers do. 😉

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