O: And a connection.
RC: Yes. It became a bonding experience because every day at lunch, when the other teachers would go to the teachers lounge, I would spend my time with the students and practice Double Dutch. And when I finally got [Double Dutch], it was a success for me and for the kids.
O: So your curriculum was based on what was happening in their lives?
RC: Exactly. Through my curriculum I tried to help them become complete individuals and to love life. Using things they were already interested in made my job a lot easier.
O: How do you encourage students to be lifelong learners?
RC: I model the behavior that I expect from them. For example, whenever I teach anything, whether it's math, science, or geography, I am excited about it! When the kids look at my face, they can tell I'm excited about it. Sometimes I may not be that ecstatic, but it's important to show them the excitement you can have from learning.
O: Why does your philosophy work?
RC: I'm sincere—my students know I mean what I say. They know everything I do is for them and that I'm giving it everything I've got. Some people say I'm crazy because I put so much effort into dealing with the kids. But when the kids see my effort, it makes them put forth more effort. They know I have high expectations for them.
O: Do you think of yourself as creative?
RC: If I had to name three of my characteristics, one of the top three would be creative. You have to be creative to be a good teacher because you can't do the same thing day after day.
O: If you can make long division exciting, you are one creative person!
Ron Clark is currently taking a leave of absence from P.S. 83 to research teaching methods and talk with Education majors around the United States.
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