Recently I asked our Eagles “What is your passion?” The answers I received were varied: Aviation, Greek mythology, Coding, Jiu-Jitsu. One Eagle even said: “Learning.”
I then asked: “How can we at Infinity School help you pursue your passion?”
In the past I might have asked my students “What is your academic passion?” This time, however, I made sure that I did not qualify my question in any way. What I have come to understand, having spent nine months getting to know the Eagles and the Acton Academy method, is that my questions are not about me; they are for the Eagles. In other words, we all learn the most when I ask questions that are not designed to anticipate the answers I am going to receive.
My job is to get the Eagles to do the thinking and then to listen to what they have to say. Then I ask them another, different question, responding to what they have said. Doing this has become one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a “teacher.” It has allowed me to actually abandon the teacher title, which Acton/Infinity does not use, and embrace the idea of being a “Guide.”
This embrace has meant that I have ceased to presume that it is my job to have the answers or to always be able to provide quick responses to student questions. In fact, the Eagles are encouraged to not ask me questions in the first place. They are to turn to one another.
At first I wondered how I fit into this picture. Now I know: I am the student, the Eagles are my teachers. My role as Guide is to assist them in forging their personal and heroic path by always asking them questions which come from a careful, close attention to their interests, doubts, aspirations and even fears.
It is immensely rewarding to watch what happens when you ask a child or young adult: “What is your passion? What do you love?” It isn’t simply that the answers are often surprising; it is the look on their faces when they realize that the adult in the room is not asking a trick question. I do not ask them what they love to then try and mould it. I ask them because asking this question lights them up.
When someone challenges you to think about what matters most in your life and when they are genuinely interested in hearing your answer, you are more likely to take the time to offer something thoughtful. This isn’t because you are trying to impress; often, it is because you might not immediately know the answer. Or, if you do, you jump at the chance to dialogue with someone about what truly brings meaning to your life. This doesn’t start when you are an adult; it begins with young children who seldom lack passion about life or the talent to engage in passionate play.
I can offer one specific example of this. The same day that I posed this “passion question,” I informed the Eagles during Writers Workshop that we would be experimenting with different literary and creative forms to see what they liked. This “experiment,” I said, was a reward for all of the hard work they have been doing all year. I said that if they found a literary form like a poem, a dramatic monologue, a short story or even a one-act play, that they would be able to drop everything else I expected of them during Writers Workshop. From that point forward they could pursue their chosen literary form until the end of the Session.
The response I received was immediate and amazing. For the first time I saw everyone in the room get really excited about Writers Workshop, including those Eagles who find writing challenging or who have been uncertain how it fits in with their true passion.
Immediately ideas were flying about the room and one Eagle said: “Mr. Jeremy, can I link what I am doing in Writers Workshop to what I am doing during Quest time?” Of course, you can! And the joy that I saw expressed at that moment, I feel, needs to be shared . . . and discussed.
What I believe the Infinity School to be about is this type of creative boundary crossing. When an Eagle recognizes that writing, mathematics, reading, spelling, civilization, board games, chess, Quests, science, entrepreneurship are each different gems reflecting a unity of understanding and knowledge, then I know that a true educational and personal breakthrough is taking place.
I have long suspected that the word “creativity” is highly misunderstood. Often creativity is associated with an “anything goes” approach to education and learning where a student, if they so choose, can (and will) avoid subjects that they find difficult, don’t like, or are afraid of.
Here at Infinity, we are working to show our Eagles that creativity is a disciplined, interdisciplinary art that need never be confined to any one subject and which, at its best and in its truest form, draws upon the unity of human inquiry. To get good answers you need good methods and the more tools and techniques you possess, the better able you will be to express the full measure of your personal wonder and desire to create.
Would your child like to be an Infinity School Eagle, too? We have openings for the 2017-2018 school year. Enroll now by clicking here on our website.
-by Mr Jeremy: Infinity School Elementary