By: Maria Lamagna <email@example.com>
Future lawyers, doctors, artists or businesspeople beware. If you read The Essential 55 by award-winning teacher Ron Clark, you may want to become one yourself.
The book is a manual of sorts, a list of 55 expectations that Clark has for the students in his fifth-grade classes. Each rule is explained in detail, with anecdotes of Clark’s experiences that highlight each rule’s relevance.
While it is a how-to book in a way, The Essential 55 is no Teaching for Dummies. Clark includes a personal story from his years of teaching for practically every rule, which allows the book to read more like Chicken Soup for the Soul. Clark writes about several of his many experiences in his North Carolina and Harlem classrooms. A few of these stories include his dealing with difficult parent-teacher conferences, being able to surprise his class with a free trip to Washington, D.C., and perhaps most importantly, having fun while implementing discipline and raising his students’ test scores dramatically.
The book can be helpful not only to teachers, but to students, parents, or really anyone concerned with improving his lifestyle and day-to-day etiquette. This is mostly because the rules in 55 don’t just apply to teaching; there are several that at first seem to have little to do with the classroom. Of course, Clark incorporates practical rules such as “follow along when we read together in class” and “answer all written questions with a complete sentence.” However, he also taught his often poverty-stricken and closed-minded students rules like “learn from your mistakes and move on,” “be the best person you can be,” and even “make eye contact” and “no talking in the movie theatre during the movie.”
In the crop of self-help and how-to books that inevitably lines the shelves of every book store, it is refreshing to find one that works, and has the results to prove it. It is nice to find one that’s easy to read, as it’s written in words that would be effortless for even Clark’s fifth-grade students to understand.
Clark’s story is inspiring, and the rules seem surprisingly easy to implement. After reading the book, the rules are hard to forget. The book has become a New York Times bestseller and provided inspiration for “The Ron Clark Story,” a movie in which Matthew Perry stars as Clark. The Essential 55 provides an uplifting look at American education, or at least what American education can be with the help of exceptional teachers.