Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The End of Molasses Classes- Book Review

Ron Clark is an exuberant teacher
(This blogpost appears in a modified form at NYC Dads Group. )

I received Ron Clark's new book The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck a few days ago to write a review for the NYC Dads Group.  

To read the full review, visit http://www.nycdadsgroup.com/2012/03/book-review-end-of-molasses-classes.html

In case you didn't know, Ron Clark was named Disney's American Teacher of the Year in the year 2000. He is a New York Times bestselling author whose book, The Essential 55, has sold over 1 million copies and has been published in 25 different countries. He has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, and Oprah, and Ms. Winfrey even named him as her first "Phenomenal Man." His experiences in New York City are the subject of the  film, The Ron Clark Story, starring Matthew Perry, better known as Chandler from Friends.  His latest book is The End of Molasses Classes.
The Essential 55
on Amazon,

Since that time, Ron has started the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, to which more than 10,000 educators from around the world have visited to see if they could somehow bottle the magic that Ron, the staff of RCA, and the teachers and kids of RCA have been able to achieve. Some of that magic includes having a two story slide serve as the centerpiece of the school, so that everyone who enters has to be slide certified; getting up on the desks to teach; creating songs/raps/dances that celebrate wins/advancements/achievements; and creating a friendly competition by emulating Harry Potter's Hogwarts Academy, and creating four separate houses within the school, complete with coats of arms, a sorting ceremony (a spinning wheel stands in for the Sorting Hat), and an electronic method of receiving points.

 More importantly, many of the students have a lot of poverty and hardship in their lives; but Ron Clark and his staff manage to get most of the kids on the right path and to persevere, persevere, and succeed.

There are too many takeaways from this book to just list a couple, but I'm going to do it anyway.  (But I highly recommend reading this book and taking the advice that's right for you.)

Here are a couple of tips from the book (there are over 101 tips in the book)

The End of Molasses Classes
on Amazon

• Not every child deserves a cookie.  Rewards are earned.  If you hand them out to everybody, then they feel like entitlements, and they are de-valued.  Ron bakes cookies for his students, and gives them out to the students he feels deserves them.  If you didn't get a cookie, you have the opportunity to work harder and get a cookie next week.  You aren't automatically given a cookie.

Get On the Desk!  Ron jumps up on desks as a matter of course as part of his teaching.  The students love the drama, the willingness to risk, and the energy that it shows.  He even occasionally allows students making presentations to do the same (although he has a number of disclaimers about it, including the fact that in every other way the school is very strict, so even when students go crazy like that there is decorum, respect, and restraint.  And even more importantly, they have VERY STURDY DESKS.

The Ron Clark Story
with Mathew Perry
on Amazon for $4.99!
Each of these tips (and all the other ones) are punctuated with real-life stories from Ron's days as a teacher, as well as stories from his students. The writing and stories are well told and you will zoom through this book.

In general, the book is wonderful, and the tips are great too.  I have to say about halfway through the book that I started to feel inadequate as a parent.  Because I love my kid, and I feel like I do a lot with him, and we do a lot of stuff together, and I even was already following a few of these ideas, but there's always room for improvement, and if I asked myself "Am I doing EVERYTHING I can possibly do to ensure my son is successful in school?" I'd have to answer a big NO.  Am I doing A LOT?  Yes, I think so.   ENOUGH?  Only time will really tell.  (not trying to defend mediocrity here, but I feel like if you did everything it would be overkill.  I don't want to be a tiger dad. (Which is perhaps why Ron Clark students get featured on Oprah and at the White House, and at tons of other places)

And here's a video of Ron talking about the book

For more information about the book, you can go to their website http://www.endofmolassesclasses.com

To find out more about the Ron Clark Academy, visit http://www.ronclarkacademy.com

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