CheetahCountrySurprise Our Learning Partners are NOT in charge of learning.

CheetahCountrySurprise#1 /10: Our Learning Partners are NOT in charge of learning.
The real heart of the matter is that at BA Academy the learner is in charge. We make it our daily purpose to shift the power and control of learning to the learner herself! The lab and studio are student-governed. This is both an awe-inspiring and disruptive element that makes our learning community unique. Our learning partners are partners in learning, not in charge of it. Disruptive It is “disruptive” because it is different from what one would expect in a learning environment. It is “awe-inspiring” because when you see it in action, it is quite breath-taking. Talk about "out of your comfort zone" - What do you get when you turn the learning over to a student and give them a long, shiny new bowling alley? The request for bumpers.

This is quite funny. They do not ask for someone to stand behind them. They do not ask for the long metal thing to guide the ball down and ensure they roll it with good speed down the alley. They do not ask for a cheering squad (although this they don’t mind). No, they ask for bumpers! The students, when given the reigns do not ask for the "how do I do it" support you would think. They instead ask for the “help me guarantee my success” thing. The BUMPERS. Bumpers are not the disruption. The disruption is the part here where the reigns are being passed. Together we stand believing the student can already do what they set out to do. The partners have no doubt. We have decided “school” means something else. It is not the norm, and thank goodness. We have decided the norm does not achieve a well-rounded, problem-solving, confident adult. So the kids ask for bumpers - they ask for partners. The adults who stand in silence while they make a mistake, biting their tongue (sometimes bleeding and still staying silent). They ask for the bumpers to guide them along and stand by their side, - and I know what you want this sentence to end with… some sort of phrase like, “amidst failure.” But the truth is, there is nothing amidst failure, there is only success. Success ALWAYS comes with failures. Failure is not the opposite of success; it is a part of it. How do you do it?
I think what is being asked here goes back to the disrupting part again. How do we get that shift to happen? The goal of everyday is to ensure that every student is slightly uncomfortable. This means not stressed, for learning does not exist when there is stress. Instead we mean allowing each student to wrestle with burning questions, stopping and making time to work out a social issue just as importantly as we would discuss how ions bind in chemistry. It means allowing students to do what there is typically no time for in the traditional classroom: discovery. Self-discovery, one of our five tenets of the program, is the key to this shift.
We want students to find their calling and feel confidently that he or she can navigate the sticky road we call life and know it is he that owns the learning, the choices, and the fruits of his labor. This enables kids to find passion for things they care about.
Awe-inspiring Now, the second piece was “awe-inspiring”. The awe-inspiring part parents miss out on for two reasons. One, you are not here during the day, and two, kids do not often see the awe-inspiring moment as very inspiring. That is what makes it so inspiring. Kids do what they do, and they do not often feel what they do makes an impact. The unit presented. Everyone was in the hustle and bustle of getting busy. The noise of “working” was heard in the room. It was loud but purposeful. The best kind of noise you ever heard. Then there was ooooooodddles of crying. And in the world of learning, when I say crying I mean real tears. The science work was hard. OK it was said. It was very hard. The questions were hard. The reading was hard. The activity was hard. The partner sees the crying, and begins to count to 100. She waits. She waits. Another student seeing the crying student says, “It is supposed to be hard. Want some help?" The crying student in a full roar completely stops, turns to the helping student, wipes his face off, and says yes. That was it. And at this point there seems to be nothing to marvel at.. but there is! If an adult had been involved, the helping student, who you don’t know has never had the courage to be a help - now was given practice - and the crying student was not shamed by an interrupting adult making them feel as if they were a disturbance or a burden. The science was completed. There was success. No one thought anything of it. Except us adults standing in the background, awe-inspiring. Life skills-check. Science skills-check This moment would never have been brought to you by a traditional classroom. There is no time to allow this kind of disruptive learning. The kind that lasts a lifetime - because the partners are not in charge of learning - they just ensure it happens.

As a mom of a student in the academy and then being "Miss Jill" dun dun dun- it's hard. But to be frank, parenting is hard. My lesson is that allowing kids to make mistakes is harder on us than it is on them. As adults, and to be honest as ME, being quiet is impossible. So I do the best I can, cringing in the shadows and putting myself in time out. I just wanted to say I am no different when it comes to the kid clause, you know the thing you invoke when you feel you need to get involved, but you probably don't! Thank goodness for our partners who know to remain silent, stand back and watch in awe as the magic happens! #2 coming soon, in the meantime feel free to share a story about how our disruptive little community provided an awe-inspiring moment for your family…