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Giving Kids Passion For Learning

When Ron Clark started teaching a decade ago, he never thought he would be a widely read author and a nationally honored teacher of the year.

His first book, "The Essential 55," spent four months on The New York Times best-seller list. His latest, "The Excellent 11," has provided teachers and parents with tips on how to motivate and inspire children to learn.

Clark believes parents and teachers can plant the seeds for what children learn and how well they will achieve.

"It all starts at home with the parents," Clark tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "If the parents are enthusiastic about education and learning, then that will transfer to the kids when they go to school. They'll want to learn and be enthusiastic as well."

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So in his latest book, "The Excellent 11: Qualities Teachers and Parents Use to Motivate, Inspire, and Educate Children," he encourages teachers and parents to make the most of their daily interaction with children.

The list is as follows:

Enthusiasm: Children are impressionable and look to adults for guidance. Teachers and parents must inspire and motivate kids to want to learn, achieve, and be the best they can be.

"I have some of my parents tell me, trying to get them to do homework is so hard, like pulling teeth, Clark says, "I say if you get frustrated, your kid will get frustrated and it's going to be difficult trying to get them to sit down and do the homework. If you make it fun, make that activity a time where you're together and you're enjoying it, the kids will enjoy it as well. You have to be leader for your child's education and enthusiasm."

To teachers, he offers this example: "I had kids who didn't like math and I taught here in Harlem. I took all the math principles and pull them into rap songs and I'd rap the math songs and the kids were doing the Harlem shake and dancing and laughing and loving it."

Adventure: By creating adventure, parents and teachers are creating an environment where children are free to let go of inhibitions and be themselves - building their confidence, fostering trust, and encouraging them to become better students.

Clark expains, "One thing I tell my kids all the time is you can't sit on your dreams. If there's something you want to do, go for it, and get the kids out and do activities with them. Doing things like taking kids to amusement parks or taking your teenager to a rock-climbing wall might seem scary, but if you can do that with your son or daughter, those things bond people."

Creativity: The best teachers and parents are those who think outside the box and put themselves in the mind-set of the children they teach. They are willing to try many different techniques until they discover the best solution to helping their children learn.

Reflection: It is important for children to see how they've grown and improved in all areas. Learning from mistakes and retaining positive memories helps a child to become a deeper individual with a better sense of self.

Clark says, "Parents need to get their kids to write in journals, even if it's only for a couple weeks or a month. It will mean so much for the kid down the line."

Balance: Children learn differently. It is important for teachers and parents to present information to kids in a balanced way, covering all types of learning styles. When working with kids, it's also important to be fun and supportive, yet firm and consistent.

Compassion: When adults show kindness, they are building a vision in the eyes of a child of how others should be treated. Good teachers and parents make sure children feel safe and comfortable in their learning environments, and teach them how to solve problems amiably and in a mature manner.

Clark notes, "On the first day of school, one of the main things I say to my students is, 'This year, we're going to be a family. One thing I will not tolerate is if you bully or call each other names. That's not going to happen.' We're losing the kids in America, the kids who are bright. They can grow up to be wonderful scientists or reporters or outstanding teachers and these kids are hating school. They don't want to be there. They're dropping out but they're being bullied and we have to stop that. We cannot ignore it. We have to teach kids compassion at a young age. We have to talk to them about their feelings and how their actions affect others. As a parent, know they can come to you with their feelings."

Confidence: Parents and teachers need to teach kids that whether they are making a science presentation, studying for a test, trying out for an athletic team, or facing any challenge in life, the key to success is preparation. Preparation builds confidence.

Humor: When dealing with kids, parents and teachers should attempt to see things from their perspective, and find humor and understanding in their mistakes and embarrassing moments. Laughter is a powerful way to connect with children.

Common Sense: When parents and teachers are specific with children in terms of what they expect from them, kids are far more willing and able to live up to those expectations. They need to take the time to help children develop skills, such as listening, taking notes in class, studying, and staying organized.

Appreciation: Teachers and parents need to appreciate each other and the important roles they each serve in children's lives. It is also important for them to show kids the importance of gratitude.

Resilience: There is no greater job in the world than raising a child. Parents and teachers must stand strong and remain committed to doing whatever is necessary to raise children with optimism, understanding and love.

Clark says Passion is the most important quality for parents and teachers to never lose sight of. It didn't make the list of 11 maybe because passion is likely the glue that holds the other 11 qualities together.

According to the author, the order of the qualities is not important. What is important is that they are being used to develop and nurture young talent.

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