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The Amazing Shake will be coming to Washington Middle School next year.

Washington students will have the option to take a class next school year that covers “soft skills” such as public speaking, dining etiquette, manners, debate, controlling a room and job interviews. The class is called The Amazing Shake and is based off of a national competition students participate in.

Alissa Rynders, who has been working to put the class together, said it is based on a program put together by Ron Clark and put into practice at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. Clark was the Disney American Educator of the Year in 2000 and has written several books on education.

Rynders said during her first year with the El Dorado School District she got the chance to go to the Academy and observe how teaching is done at the school. Principal Jody Vines said the school has sent several groups of teachers to the Academy and has another group going in May.

“His classroom is set up with in cinema type seating behind it, all around,” Vines said. “People bring teachers by the bus load, we’ve taken probably five different groups of teachers over the years to go and you get to sit and watch – it’s him and a couple other Disney Teachers of the Year – them teach. Their style, their techniques of working with these students are pretty incredible.”

“The students will all of a sudden, if they do something right, he has a disco ball that comes down and starts spinning. They get up and dance, music starts play – this is all hooked up in his classroom – for about 30 seconds, then it shuts off, they sit down and he starts right back with the Algebra again.”

Vines said when teachers go, they get to watch multiple classes in this style before sitting down with teachers and students to talk to them about the teaching methods and subject matter.

As part of the Academy, Clark started a competition called The Amazing Shake, which went national with a competition in 2018. Rynders said she got the idea of starting The Amazing Shake class at Washington Middle School when she saw videos on social media announcing the national competition, but she was already familiar with the school from her trip there.

While the plan is for part of the class to go to the national competition, both Rynders and Vines said there’s more to starting the class than the idea of the competition.

“For us, it’s to make these students really thrive and get these experiences that maybe they’re not going to get at home,” Rynders said. “They’re not going to have the same opportunities necessarily as every single kid and this class would really benefit them because when they get out into junior high and high school, when they’re applying for jobs, even when they’re applying for college and they’re having to go through all of that, they’re going to need to be able to have those skills already ready for them, not having to learn them at that point.”

Throughout the class, students will participate in mini competitions to help prepare for the national competition. Vines said these might be used for students to earn points and see who is able to go to the national competition at the end of the year.

“They pull in CEOs from all the businesses there,’” Rynders said. “They pull in the Atlanta Hawks CEO and they’re asking interview questions of these kids. I’m going to hope we can pull some of that into our school just from our neighboring communities.”

Rynders is looking at bringing in members of the community to help with the class. Some of the possible involvement opportunities include listening to critiquing student speeches, doing mock job interviews with students and participating in a mock town hall for the students.

She’s also looking at taking the students on a field trip to the state capital for a tour and to visit with the governor about speech delivery, setting up debates for the students to participate in, practicing professional handshakes and practicing proper dining etiquette.

“Things that they’re going to need in the future, in the real world,” Rynders said. “In job interviews, anything like that that they need for real life in the real world. At the same time, hopefully leading those kids to want to be leaders in the community. Even though they’re in fifth grade, that’s something that’s going to carry them on throughout (life). When they’re sixteen and applying for jobs, they’re going to need that,”

One of the topics that isn’t included in the competition, but Rynders has in the curriculum for the class, is financial literacy. This would include topics such as ways to create and stick to a budget. Vines said they’ll use a program called Economics Arkansas, which is a statewide non-profit that provides resources for teaching finances.

There has been conversation of a similar class being added at Barton Junior High and El Dorado High School for students who enjoy the class and want to continue to expand their knowledge and practice of the topics. However, the district will most likely evaluate the possibility more as the group of fifth and sixth graders next year are able to take the class and move up through the schools.

Rynders said that one of the things about going to the Ron Clark Academy is that the students there aren’t different from the ones in El Dorado.

“It’s the same kind of students as we deal with,” she said. “They’re just like our students. It changed a lot of things that I do in my classroom now. When you’re there (at the Ron Clark Academy), that’s one of the first things these kids do. They come up and shake your hand. Luckily, we have the CATS procedures here at the school to help students do stuff like that already. So it’s something that we’ve started but this class would really help hone in on that.”

Michael Shine may be reached at 870-862-6611 or mshine@eldoradonews.com. Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook @MichaelAZShine for updates on Union County school news.

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