When Ron Clark walked into his fifth-grade class in rural North Carolina, he was confronted with a tremendous challenge. The children had little interest in learning, and were sorely lacking in guidance. How would he transform a group of apathetic kids into disciplined, thoughtful, and curious students? He quickly realized that they needed to learn some basic rules.
Clark compiled a list of 55 lessons, and soon, his fifth-grade students--who once struggled to read at the third-grade level--were reading at the sixth-grade level . . . and loving it. What's more, they were gaining something crucial-self-respect. Those 55 lessons evolved into what Clark calls The Essential 55 -- guidelines for living and interacting with others.
The Essential 55 will prepare parents and educators to teach students the rules for life -- everything from knowing how to say thank you, to acing an interview.
The winner of the 2001 Disney Teacher of the Year Award presents some revolutionary ideas for the classroom: manners, industriousness and accountability. Many of the 55 rules Clark outlines read, at first, like excerpts from a 1950's primer: "If you are asked a question in conversation, you should ask a question in return," says Rule 6; stand to the right on escalators, insists Rule 43; and rule 29 includes 26 sub-rules about polite eating. Clark may seem like a bit of a fussbudget, but closer examination shows his rules go beyond simple politeness: they promote respect for self and others, and help foster a mature and responsible way of living in the world. As Clark explains each rule, he weaves in anecdotes of student projects, class trips (including one to Washington, D.C., where his students sang Christmas carols with the Clintons) and instances in which the particular rule proved invaluable. Clark, a North Carolina native, writes with a warm, Southern friendliness, and his cogent explanations about why he created his rules and his closing tips on dealing with parents and children offer plenty of ideas and much-needed support. Teachers will have to be determined to succeed before any set of guidelines will have an effect in the classroom, he warns-and indeed, Clark's tireless dedication might be daunting to some. And while the content of his lessons is presented only vaguely, for inspiration, this book is a definite winner; it also makes a strong case that students lack only good teachers to achieve great things. Clark's slim but valuable volume will make a welcome addition to any teacher's library.