Few issues raise as many questions with parents as the topic of teachers at Acton Academy.
As we create a learning community of young heroes, mastering the 21st Century Skills of self governance, goal setting and time management, we have a strict rule: “Guides (adults) do not answer questions in the studio. Never. Not once.”
We took this drastic step as a form of shock therapy, to break the spell of young people accustomed to regurgitating knowledge dispensed by adult power figures, in return for a gold star or an “A” on a report card. It seemed to be the only way to convince our young heroes to take charge of their own learning and transformation.
The title “Teacher” has many meanings. With apologies to Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, when I hear a traditional educator or politician use the label “Teacher,” I want to reply: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
In a Utopian world, a Teacher is a subject matter expert, pedagogical wizard, mentor, guide and wise role model all rolled into one. In other words, a Teacher is an Educational Unicorn who offers one-on-one care to every student.
Unfortunately, this is asking too much of flesh and blood human beings, who when overtaxed, overwhelmed or poorly selected and equipped by bureaucratic institutions, all too often become autocratic lecturers at best, and mini-tyrants at worst.
Back to the question at hand. Do our young heroes at Acton Academy have experts, guides, mentors and role models? Absolutely. And the ratio isn’t one adult for twenty five students trapped in an assembly line classroom, but an almost infinite supply of guidance and affirmation, customer tailored for the needs of each of the young heroes who employ them.
Let’s go one step deeper.
Do our Eagles have access to subject matter experts? Absolutely. In fact, thanks to the internet, we have 24/7/365 access to the top experts in the world, not only through text, but video as well. And when they are ready, our Eagles enter into apprenticeships where master entrepreneurs, scientists and craftsman transmit critical tacit knowledge that can only be delivered in a hands-on environment.
Do our Eagles have access to pedagogical innovations? Absolutely. There continues to be an explosion of game based technology and simulation tools that our Eagles know as well, if not better than the top pedagogical wizards in the world. If you doubt this, come see them in action.
Do our Eagles have mentors, guides and role models who care about them? Absolutely. First, they are surrounded by fellow Eagles of all ages, who learn from each other, bound by individual covenants. Add to this Guides, parents, coaches and others in a broader real world community — not to mention the heroes of ages past we study and lift up – and there is a rich tapestry of wisdom and advice to be summoned.
You see, our young heroes are not forced to submit to institutionally hired adults who must conform to bureaucratic edicts until they become pedantic lecturers or petty tyrants, offering no relief to the children imprisoned in their classrooms.
Our young heroes enter into voluntary covenants, strict agreements with clear consequences that bind together a learning community of free individuals, young people of all ages and adults alike, pledged to help each other find a calling that will change the world.
To help them is an army of adults, engaged to serve the best interests of the learner.
Do we have Teachers at Acton Academy? It all depends on what you mean by that word.