(Founder of The Ron Clark Academy)
Q: How does someone so adventurous and so against becoming an educator become a teacher?
A: All my life, all I wanted was adventure. But then I walked in that classroom and saw those kids. They were rowdy and throwing paper and rude, and this little boy looked up to me and said, "Is you gonna be our new teacher?" At that moment, I just it was where I was supposed to be. Once I got in the classroom, I found out that there's more adventure in the four walls of a classroom than anywhere I'd ever traveled in the world. The classroom is such a powerful place where you have the opportunity to lift up kids, to inspire them and to teach them to love life and learning.
Q: What is the most important aspect of THE RON CLARK STORY?
A: When I learned that they were writing the script, I said I wanted it to be true to the kids. I wanted it to show the passion that I put in that classroom and also show the improvements the kids made and how successful they have become because someone believed in them. Kids need someone to believe in them, someone to lift them up. Once you do that, the difference you can make in their lives is immeasurable, and the movie captures that passion in the classroom and shows how, when you inspire kids, anything is possible.
Q: How do you feel about Matthew Perry portraying you?
A: I see that he has brought such warmth and so much life to the character. He's portraying the same passion and the connection I had with the students, and it's really special to watch. I'm very thankful he was selected to play me in this movie.
Q: How did you come up with your Essential 55 Rules?
A: The first year I was teaching, my class was very rowdy and rude, and it was very hard to get them to pay attention. I told them that they didn't have any home training and needed to learn some rules. So I decided to come up with a list and try to teach these kids some manners. The list at first was only eight rules that included how to give a firm handshake, how to be respectful and how to speak to an adult. As I was introducing these rules, I noticed that the kids were actually listening and paying attention to what I was teaching. The next year, my list went from eight rules to 12. The list continued to increase every year. Then I moved to Harlem to teach, and it grew to 55. The rules are ideas about creating an atmosphere in the classroom where kids want to be there, are proud of themselves and their classrooms and will lift each other up.
Q: Where does the drama come from in THE RON CLARK STORY?
A: The drama comes from my love of acting and performance, because that is such a wonderful way to interact and get kids to learn. Every day in my classroom, I'm George Washington or I'm rapping about math or I'm reading Harry Potter and turn into a snake. I'm doing these things, and these kids love it. I try to bring the classroom to life.