Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Crash Course: Just What the Doctor Ordered!

I just finished reading Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me by Kim Bearden. First of all, I love anything remotely related to the Ron Clark Academy, but I especially loved this book.

Kim Bearden co-founded RCA with Ron Clark and is one heck of a middle school language arts teacher. Although I have devoured everything Ron Clark has written (and even met him in person!), I knew very little about Kim (I'll just write about her on a first name basis as if I know her- ha!).

In this book, Kim shares memories and stories of past students and relates them to overall themes that she creatively calls "courses"- courage, play, recovery, chemistry- just to name a few. In each "course" she recalls her experience with specific students and the lessons she learned from them.

What I am most impressed with is how her amazing passion for kids- not just teaching- shines through with each story. I know the importance of building relationships, but it is so easy to overlook them when swamped with a never-ending to-do list and the rush to cover curriculum. Reading Kim's stories helped me to see my own students, both present and past, in a new light. I was brought to tears with many of her stories and connected with both her successes and failures. She has created (and continues to create) so many special moments for kids, even designing an entire grammar lesson around one reluctant student's love for fishing. Amazing.

Kim reminded me that each child is a special gift from God and as their teacher, it is my job to discover their talents, even when they are buried deep beneath the surface, and build upon them. Today when I felt that usual twinge of annoyance when my loudest and most talkative student began their antics, I quickly visualized him as a passionate CEO rousing his employees to action. I couldn't help but giggle and give them a big hug. This student has tremendous leadership capability that just needs to be funneled in the right direction. That's part of my job. That's one of the best parts of my job.

Not only was I touched by her passion for kids, but also by her amazing creativity. I love how she admits that she is a complete type A personality and had to think methodically about how to be creative! In doing so, however, she realized that she could be. From transforming her classroom into outer space, opening a poetry cafe, or creating a hospital room for "injured" sentences needing surgery, she found ways to infuse magic in her classroom. I found myself feeling both feelings of jealousy and guilt as I read about her lessons- jealous of the kids in her class and guilt that I haven't provided many magical experiences for my own students. It inspired me to bring the magic back to my classroom. We are never too old for a little fun and imagination!

It was no coincidence that I read this book when I did. This time of year gets me feeling crazy! After some reflection, I realized that the students who are not progressing as I hoped are the some of the ones I have the weakest relationships with.  I've thought plenty about what small group lessons they need to be a part of and what specific skills I need to reteach them, but I haven't spent enough time getting to know them- their likes, their dislikes, their passions and fears. This book was just what I needed to help me refocus and reenergize.

If you're looking for a refreshing read and a little inspiration, I would highly recommend this book.

Thank you, Kim, for being so amazing and reminding me what a blessing it is to teach.

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