It was the first day of a school for fourth graders in a rural Georgia district, and I was there to watch their excitement — slowly shrivel and die. For 50 minutes, the teacher recited her class rules in a voice so listless and flat that she could have been reading from the telephone book.
I was literally praying for a fire drill so I could escape, and it still saddens me that those 27 children returned to that lifeless classroom day after day.
“That’s a molasses class,” says Ron Clark, the desk-jumping, algebra-rapping, superstar teacher whose astounding success with struggling East Harlem students was celebrated in a movie and by Oprah Winfrey. In 2007, Clark used his fame to create his dream middle school in one of southeast Atlanta’s poorest neighborhoods, intent on practicing the craft he still considers his first mission and also on training other teachers.
Today, the private Ron Clark Academy vibrates with the energy and passion that earned its founder a