Tip #7. Practice real world “stranger” safety now.
Here is a fact about Acton Academy that isn’t in the brochures:
We trust children to make important, daily decisions about their own safety starting at age 6.
(Note: Acton Academy has tightly practiced protocols for emergencies. This tip is not referring to emergency incidents such as extreme weather or fire.)
As a new Acton parent, you will notice a stark difference from other schools on your first day. It is the scene at dismissal. The gate opens at 3pm and cars start lining the sidewalk.
At 3:15pm, the studio doors open. Watch. Our guides don’t manage each child’s entrance into every vehicle. You will not see numbers taped on windshields nor will you hear names called over a microphone.
What you will see is lots of happy children pouring out of the studios knowing exactly who is picking them up; and walking or running to their cars. Drivers proceed slowly, following the flow of cars naturally.
Our main issue at the close of the day is not safety but is having Eagles who linger, wanting to play rather than head to their cars. (The parents of these Eagles end up doing some further teaching at home about why moving directly to their car is important. We leave that to you.)
Guides are on the sidewalk and are familiar with every family car but they don’t manage the Eagles. The Eagles are equipped to manage themselves. (Our high school Eagles will depart from their separate building on their own this year as it’s our first year with a fully functioning high school.)
The guides support the work of the parents on this critical safety issue which is simply: who do you get in a car with in life; and, more importantly, who do you NOT get in a car with in life?
In the studios we discuss, practice and role-play scenarios around the dismissal scenario. We talk about the “icky feeling” you get when something isn’t right. We discuss that this feeling is legitimate and is the signal to go directly to a guide and say, “something doesn’t feel right.”
Parents: This skill goes far beyond daily school life. Acton is simply the practice field for your child to be “street smart” elsewhere in the world. (I want to assure parents of our youngest 6 year old Eagles that after the first week of enjoying the guides’ support at dismissal, your children will find this process empowering and fun. They will know who is picking them up; they will see that car and they will go to it.)
Here is what we ask of you: You are in charge of equipping your children with the basic life skill of knowing who is okay to ride home with and who isn’t. Tell your children what your family protocol is. It changes as they grow but the basics are the same for all of us: trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, trust yourself and take the appropriate action.
Many adults need to learn to trust their instincts and what to do if they get that “icky feeling.” We recommend reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin Becker. It changed my life. Let me know if you need a copy and I’ll send you one.