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The Day They Realized They Don't Need Me

The day they realized they don't need me.

During our afternoon Socratic discussion, a story from another Acton Academy campus was brought up by one of the Eagles. The story came from their middle school during a time when the young learners were trying to figure out the best way to govern themselves. We didn’t get that far into the story however, because the story came to a clambering halt when the Eagle mentioned that the Guide was “ejected” from the studio that week. They kicked him out for the whole week while they came up with ideas of how to best govern their small community.

THIS caught the attention of everyone. “WAIT, THEY DIDN'T HAVE A GUIDE?!”

As everyone gave their shocked responses they finally turned their attention to me, sitting in the circle. I simply asked them, "How many of you think you could do that, run the studio with no guide?”.

About half the Eagles bobbed their heads in confidence and the other half seemed completely shocked by the thought of it.

For the people who were still thinking they needed a guide, I asked another question. “What have I done for you today?”

There was a long pause while they realized that I had spent all morning planning our next quest with my headphones on in the corner and nobody even talked to me in the last 4 hours. They were working away on various core skills, and not a single person came to me with a question, comment, or to show off something they were working

on. They were already working completely independently of any adult and using all the resources around them to solve problems they came across.

“Wait, you lead the morning meeting!” One person exclaimed.

“Who here thinks they could lead a meeting?” I asked.

Again, about half the hands shot up.

“Alright, well that is taken care of. Am I coming to the studio tomorrow or not?”

Hesitantly, they discussed what it might look like to not have a guide for a day, bringing up concerns about what might occur and talking through how to best handle tough situations that might come up.

This is the point in the year I LOVE. The day they realize they don’t need an adult in the room to tell them what to do or to make sure they are doing the right thing. It is the point in the year where all the soft skills that we have been working on start becoming second nature and things like critical thinking, goal setting, interpersonal communication, understanding natural consequence, time management, and problem solving all merge and the community of learners become completely independent. This is what it looks like when mindsets shift from “doing what I’m told” to “choosing what is right ''. They have practice weighing choices of how to best use their time, they know what happens when interpersonal problems get ignored instead of dealt with in a loving way, they know how to set priorities, deadlines, and motivate themselves by rewarding themselves for a job well done or give themselves a consequence for not completing what they set out to do. Does this break down at times? Sure- it does for all of us, but they are getting the practice and building the habits now that will help them to be lifelong learners that are ready to bring change into whatever communities they find themselves in.

By the end of the meeting, everyone was onboard with the no-guide day. Yesterday (Tuesday), I worked out of another room in the building and they had the studio completely to themselves. They have the tools, they have the confidence, and they have each other. They can take on the world! Wait, am I out of a job?!

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