Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rules to live by

I read that Oprah was so impressed with the educator and author of “The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educators’ Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child”, Ron Clark, that she gave him $365,000. Hopefully he'll buy a new tie with some of the money.

I read all about his 55 Rules this weekend.

Mr. Clark developed his rules while working in difficult neighborhoods. Areas where it is easier to fail than to succeed. He includes rules for behavior inside his classroom, rules for outside of the classroom but while still on school grounds, as well as rules for the kids in communicating with adults and peers in the outside world.

In my opinion, many of the rules are things that should have been taught at home and reinforced in the classroom rather than the other way around.

Some of the rules are how an educator should relate to the parents of the students.

As I was reading the thought kept bouncing around in my head, “Everything old is new again.” If you were never 6 years old and under the watchful eye of a Catholic nun many of the required 55 behaviors inside the classroom may seem new to you. But for me they brought back many nightmares, I mean memories.

Maybe you have only heard tales of the strict expectations from the students of the parochial school system. I’m here to tell you that every word you have heard is true. I saw and experienced things that still haunt me today and that I have only been able to share with my therapist.

The Cottage Master has stories of his own to tell. But then, he was only asking for trouble from the Sister Superior the day he decided that writing on the bathroom stall wall would be fun.

I'm not saying that Mr. Clark's rules are as restrictive -- I'm just saying that my brain exploded with scenes from childhood.

What interested me was that Ron Clark is teaching in a public school and is able to establish his rules without any opposition from the school board, parents, or his fellow teachers.

He implies (and I may be completely wrong here) that his class is the only one in the school where his rules are enforced. I have heard from many teachers that they would love to have this kind of control in their classroom but the school system that they are working with will not allow them to establish rules of expected behaviors that are not a part of the school as a whole.

On the other hand, my parents, and those of my childhood friends, sent us off to bootcamp, I mean school, knowing that the rules were strict and that's what they wanted. In today's world few parents would want their children to be so stiffly treated.

My hat is off to Mr. Clark and his 55 Rules. A real life “To Sir with Love” Mr. Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier).


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