"Why Do You Call Them 'Heroes'?"
You are the chosen one of your own life.
This thought ran through my head when I realized just how applicable it is to everyone that Acton refers to every child as a hero. We use a lot of different terminology than typical schools at Acton Placer, but there’s a reason for all of it.
Every Student is On A Hero’s Journey
Have you heard of the hero’s journey? If you haven’t heard of that phrase, I can assure you that you’re at least aware of the concept. Take any TV show, any movie, any book, or just any overarching story you have ever encountered. They all follow the same structure. Every single one. And it’s called, you guessed it:
The Hero’s Journey is the story arch that every main character of every story encounters. While the fine details may be a bit different, the concept is the same. Everyone is on their own unique Hero’s Journey with adventures all their own, discovering who they are and what they’re truly capable of, with a destiny that is theirs to find or create. Each and every individual’s journey looks different, but the path to growth is always the same. Heroes encounter struggle, and come out even stronger because of it.
We operate in a way that gives students a voice on matters big and small. The kids themselves, our founding heroes, pitched ideas for what they thought the mascot for Acton Placer should be. Groups researched other schools in the area, their mascots, and their school colors and then created their pitch based on their findings. The student body then voted on their favorites.
Not only is our mascot chosen by our very own student body, but there’s plenty of symbolism behind the lion. To be a hero and take on the call to adventure and then to face adversity head on, you have to be courageous. You must attack your education, your personal development, and your dreams with a sense of ferociousness and bravery in order to make your goals a reality.
We don’t have teachers at Acton. No one is here to stand in front of the room and lecture students for hours on end, and no one’s job is to “teach” students what they “need to know”. Nor do we determine what it is that students “need to know”. Instead, we have guides that guide students in the direction that they want to go. They help students to determine what their personal goals are and guides assist with that growth.
Grade Levels and Studios
Just as we don’t have teachers, we also don’t have classrooms. We prefer not to separate students by grade level for several reasons. First, we see greater growth when heroes across all grade levels are able to interact and learn together. It allows the older heroes to set a positive example for the younger, while it also enables a higher level of communication across the board. There is something to learn from everyone, no matter the age. Heroes don’t have the opportunity to feel or act as though they are above anyone else, because everyone is equal.
Studios are broader age groups made up of students at a certain academic level. Several factors are considered when determining which studio is the best fit for an individual including age, social/emotional level, and academic ability. These factors are always reevaluated regularly and adjusted as necessary to always have the best fit for each individual. This means that even if a person, based on their age alone, would be in 6th grade, if their social/emotional level and academic ability are higher than that of a sixth grader, they would likely thrive better and experience more growth in 7th.
Transitional kindergarten and kindergarten
Within each studio, there are squads. Part of learning self-directed education is remaining accountable. What helps this process is having a strong individual who will hold you accountable to your personal goals. Squads are essentially small accountability groups that keep each other on track with their personal and educational goals. If you learn self-direction and accountability from a young age, it tends to stick with you.
Another means of accountability are freedom levels. Acton believe that the best education takes place in environments where freedom reigns supreme. But freedom cannot exist without responsibility. If you take all responsibility away from someone, that will inevitably negate and infringe upon someone else’s freedom. That is why every Acton establishes freedom levels.
Every lion begins in the den, and as they achieve more and hit more set goals, they are rewarded with more freedoms based on the level that they move up to. Each freedom level looks different for each studio as to what freedoms are gained as a hero moves up. But they must maintain certain standards in order to remain in that freedom level, lest they move back down and have freedoms they have earned taken away.