Ambiguity as Teacher: Part 1 of 2

Laura Sandefer

November 27, 2018

My boys were five and six years old when a friend asked me what my favorite day of the week was. I answered, “Monday.” She was surprised it wasn’t Saturday like most other people. My take on Mondays was simply that they brought back the orderly schedule and predictability of a work week.

There is certainty in a Monday.

Yet when we built Acton Academy as the ideal learning place for our young children, we infused it with uncertainty.

I wanted for my children what I didn’t experience myself, hence my built-in desire for structure and control.  I didn’t know the road to discovering my potential was the Hero’s Journey as I sat straight up in desks and made the adult authorities around me very proud with my right answers and good behavior.

I want more for my children. I want them to navigate the inevitable uncertainty in their world with confidence, skill, bravery and joy.

We had to use ambiguity as a teacher and tool at Acton because ambiguity increases complexity, and makes decision-making more difficult.

And since our daily decisions create our habits which forge our character which leads us to our calling and destiny, we wanted a teacher who would faithfully drive this path forward. Welcome Ambiguity, the annoying driver of tough decisions.

The Acton method is a simple one – though not an easy one.  We provide complex challenges along with the tools and processes for Eagles to use to learn to think critically, find solutions and solve problems. Through this experience of practicing daily – over years – how to make good decisions, they learn how to learn while developing strong character.

What we see through this battle with ambiguity is young people who become strong intellectually and emotionally even willing to suffer as they rise from failure in order to grow.

We parents can use some of these tools, too, to be better equipped to maneuver through our children’s learning journeys.

The top three Acton tools for parents to use alongside their children are:

  1. Journey Tracker
  2. Badge Plans
  3. Family Meetings

Don’t know how to use them? Ask your Eagle to sit with you and walk you through their Journey Tracker each week or twice a month. Same with their badge plan. Find out what they are learning and doing. Be deeply curious about their struggles and their successes. You can figure out the family meeting tool by reading Patrick Lencioni’s “The Three Big Questions For a Frantic Family” if you haven’t already done so.

The more you understand the scope of work each Eagle faces daily, the better able you are to encourage, support and at times create consequences at home to spark a fire in the studio. But more importantly, the better able you are to listen to your child and sit in awe of the mysterious and miraculous human unfolding before you.

And I still like Mondays. But it’s not the orderliness of them. It’s simply that I trust the uncertainty that lies before us. I’m willing to be surprised.

[Part 2 of this post coming tomorrow: A real example of how Eagles learn to make decisions]

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Middle School is where young people rapidly start owning their education. Middle school is the perfect time to develop intellect and character while gaining a deeper sense of self and the real world. Students have a broad palette of topics to study and pair in-depth academic exploration with real-world connections to experts and local apprenticeships. Middle School is about deepening a passion for individual subjects while broadening your understanding of yourself and your future.