10 Surprising Truths about Acton Academy

Truth #1: Our teachers are not in charge of learning. 

The truth is that we transfer this power from teacher to student. This is one of the key distinguishing and disruptive elements of our school.

It is “distinguishing” because pushing power from teacher to student is a complete reversal of the traditional power structure of schools. It is “disruptive” because this idea forces people to make a personal decision about the purpose of school and the role of a teacher. These questions lure us out of our comfort zone and into a world of “what ifs.”

As parents at Acton Academy we have already jumped into this realm of wide open possibilities for what “school” can mean. Together we have declared that we want something contrary to what the cultural norm offers.  Yet how this plays out in daily life can be confusing and difficult.

What does this power shift look like?

At school, part of our work each day is to create an environment that allows students to choose a path of discovery that includes making choices, wrestling with big questions, practicing skills, experiencing self-discipline and rigor, failing, finding passion and moving toward mastery. The goal is that our children will be independent lifelong learners who fully accept that they are responsible decision-makers in their learning; and who will find a calling that helps them live a life rich with meaning.

At home, this transfer of power doesn’t always look so pretty. I am challenged at times in ways that don’t feel uplifting and freeing. Some days I just want to tell Charlie and Sam what to do. If they would just follow my instructions, we’d all be very happy. Or so goes my thinking on my “weak” days. I’ll share one very small story about how I’ve experienced this truth in my home.

Last week I knew that Charlie had made a goal to practice his spelling words with me over the weekend because I sneaked a peak at his worksheet outlining his excellence goal strategy. But the weekend passed and he said nothing. Monday rolled around and I was disappointed that he never mentioned his homework. Where’s the discipline? Shouldn’t Kaylie have told me to remind him? Aren’t I supposed to intervene at this point? I held my tongue reminding myself that this is his journey and the inspiration to practice spelling must come from him even if that irks my perfectionist tendencies and even if it means he fails. On the way to school I told a story about some students choosing to practice their excellence goal at home and I wondered what he thought about this. He chimed in and said that he was going to do that, too, but he left the paper at school. I kept quiet. The next day he was practicing on his own at bedtime. He didn’t need me, he said. While I wished he did – and always will – I smiled knowing that “discern” would be spelled correctly in his writing from now on because he wants it that way.

Stay tuned for “Surprising Truth #2” coming up in my next post. In the meantime, please share and post a story about your experience in parenting a child on a hero’s journey.

Food for thought:

I embrace the vision of the role of teacher and parent in the attached article sent to me by Juan Bonifasi, our beloved founder of Acton Academy Guatemala City. This vision hits at the heart of Acton.  I believe it will touch your heart as a parent, as well. http://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/malaguzzi:ccie:1994.pdf.

When you’ve got 20 minutes and need some inspiration:

Jeff Sandefer’s TEDx talk:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNQHFim-iBQ

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One Response to 10 Surprising Truths about Acton Academy

  1. Abigail King says:

    I often feel that one of the most important things I can do as a parent is keep my mouth shut. And it’s not easy!

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