THE BIG UNTRUTH ABOUT ACTON ACADEMY

Laura Sandefer

March 12, 2015

The big lie is that we don’t believe teachers are important.

One must simply look deep into our learning community to understand our truth. What you will see is a teacher-student ratio of at least 20:1. We have at least twenty teachers for each student.

It’s all in how we define “teacher.” Merriam Webster defines teacher as, “ a person or thing that teaches something.” Notice the lack of required degree or certification in this definition. We embrace this idea this because it opens wide the door for finding great teaching everywhere – if you know how to seek it. It also makes it impossible to get stuck with a “bad teacher.”

At Acton, the goal is to free our young heroes to discover excellent teachers all around them. We connect them to each other and to examples of excellent teachers in their own lives and within the world at large.

Here is how it looks:

The Eagles are teachers to themselves and to each other. Sal Khan is their teacher. Alex de Tocqueville and Harper Lee are their teachers. Socratic discussions are their teachers. Town Meetings are their teachers. Mistakes are their teachers. Conflict resolutions are their teachers. Mentors in apprenticeships are their teachers. Artists and coaches are their teachers. Parents are their teachers.

Today I saw a chicken teach.

We joyfully and with awe witnessed life fighting the confines of a shell and breaking through to breathe – then wobbling around on feet that seemed too big, until it collapsed as a wet, exhausted, alive baby chicken. This chicken taught us more about biology and about the fragility and mystery of life than a textbook or project plan ever could.

Last night I saw a 13-year-old teach a 52-year-old how to turn replicating decimals into a fraction. “Mom, that was really fun. I just taught Dad some math!” Maybe he can teach me tonight.

Yesterday I saw “To Kill a Mockingbird” teach an 11-year-old about justice, American history, prejudice and the psychology of mob mentality. How dreadful to imagine learning such concepts from an expert giving a lecture.

I know many of you sit with your Eagles and read or do math or cook or build a boat or travel with spirits of adventure and learning. You are wise and excellent teachers.

While we don’t assign homework, our “teachers” assign it to themselves because the learning goes on and on and on when you are free and on a hero’s journey.

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