The Invisible System at Acton Academy

The great privilege in my work is hearing personal stories of growth sparked by the Acton model: a tight-knit learning community where individuality is honored not in spite of the larger community (system) but because of it and its standards rooted in love and respect.

An Acton parent recently sent me this email. She gave me permission to share it with you. Her story re-inspires me to trust the children. Here are her words:

During the second session of this school year, our daughter came home and told me that her Deep Book Badge was taken away by the Council. They audited her Running Partner’s badge and since his got taken away for its poor quality, hers did as well.

I was not exactly happy with her explanation. Below was how that conversation took place at home after school:

Mom:  They took your deep book badge away because your Running Partner did not do his work well?  Should I talk to the guides about this?

Daughter:  No, it is okay mom!

Silence from mom.

Mom: Should I talk to his mom about this to help your Running Partner try harder next time?

Daughter: No, it is okay mom!

Silence from mom.

Mom: But you spent weeks reading and working on your Deep Book Badge. Is it fair that they took it away because of your Running Partner?

Daughter: It is okay mom!

Silence from mom.

More silence from mom.

Mom: Why are you okay with this whole thing?

Daughter: Mom, have you ever thought that this is a great opportunity for me to be a better Running Partner regardless of losing my badge? I now have a second chance to help my Running Partner!  I will get it back again but I really want to help him do a better job this time.

What did I learn from this conversation with our young daughter (in her second year at Acton)?

I learned there is a wonderful invisible system that takes place during the day while our kids are at school learning together as a community. The system constantly rearranges itself to help all of our kids: the slow, the fast, the strong, the weak, the hard working and all the ones in between.

It is often too easy for us to think of how many badges our kids collect, how many boxes they checked off, or how may lessons that they finished because those are the tangible things we could see and measure.

I was too quick to think about the deep book badge my daughter lost and did not see how she was able to stretch herself to grow mentally.

From losing the Deep Book Badge, she has received a series of  lessons back: accountability, compassion, self evaluation, and a second chance to be a better Running Partner.

These lessons are the same for her Running Partner.

You really can’t teach that in a textbook.

Our daughter did a wonderful job of reminding me to step back and allow her to grow.

Acton is her community and she owns it.