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November 5, 2013
There is a lot talk at our house lately about “strikes” and “Eagle Bucks.” As a parent, I become confused: I am uncomfortable, to say the least, when I hear my child has two strikes or owes Eagle Bucks. Being asked to stay home or be removed from the community doesn’t seem right – especially when I’m paying to have my child in school. This feels like punishment and contrary to the method of Acton Academy.
Why would a school that is focused on individual genius and self-paced work lace it with a punitive system of behavior control?
Here is the answer of which I must remind myself:
The Eagles themselves created these systems of accountability.
The Eagles want a community that upholds high standards of work and integrity. They want strong guardrails that help keep everyone on the path of a Hero’s Journey. They want to govern their own community.
Our very own children are tougher than we are when it comes to holding boundaries. They have created systems – after much discussion and many meetings – that give them power to check each other and prod each other back onto a pathway that nurtures learning and growth.
Sometimes Eagle Bucks are taken too hastily or without all the information. Mistakes are made and need to be worked out. This is tough love and hurts to witness. I like happy stories. “I want carrots not sticks,” says I-the-mom.
I am reminded, then, that the Eagles have bunches of carrots in their daily life at Acton: free time, positives notes read about their actions at group times, solid check marks on their goals lists, choice in how to work, freedom at lunch, games, respect, leadership opportunities, running teams, quests, and town meetings to air grievances and solve their own problems.
When things don’t go well and the carrots aren’t enough?
The Eagles want the power to manage each other and guides who will help them through the process. They are learning hard and important lessons about their own power and motivation. Yes, at times they like to test this feeling of power and at times conflicts arise. These missteps become hearty meat for group discussions based on ideas such as: What does it means to have freedom and real responsibilities? Is it harder to give out a consequence or to receive one? What if it’s your best friend who has crossed a line? What should we do if someone feels an Eagle Buck was taken unfairly? What does the word “appeal” mean? How should we process appeals? What motivates you more – earning an Eagle Buck or not getting one taken away?
It is a difficult experience when a negative consequence is delivered. I believe that is the point.
Our words when a student hurts another student, or breaks a promise are these: “We love you. We are excited for you to make the choice to get back on track. Fail cheaply and often for that is where learning happens. The main point of the Hero’s Journey is not that we will not fail. It is that we get back up when we do.”
It won’t be long before there driving, alcohol and dating are part of the scene of our children’s lives. This is when failing is not cheap. Now is the time for them to learn that every action they choose to make each day has a consequence. There is no “flying under the radar” at Acton. Each person matters deeply. Each person is known.
Our children are dealing with this reality together and safely with loving guides to follow. These are prime times to have meaningful family discussions around choices, consequences, freedom and responsibility.
An added layer to this topic that may not gain much airtime at home is that we are implementing meaningful conflict resolution practice at Acton this session. Our children will be learning how to have difficult conversations without damaging a relationship. We will be role-playing, sharing stories and practicing in their real world studio settings what it means to be a true friend, holding each other accountable to being the very best humans we can be.
We welcome your input as parents and give you the weekly surveys for suggestions and comments. Thank you for honoring the Eagles as they explore with freedom the big questions of life together and as individuals.