“Far and away, the best prize in life is a chance to work on a hard work worth doing” — Ted Roosevelt
There are lots of thoughts as we embarked on a journey of launching what our family considers to be at the forefront as the most nurturing, deep-learning, student-centered learning environment in the world.
Last week we held our Welcome Ceremony for Acton Academy Southwest Austin, where we called our learners and their families on an adventure of establishing a new tribe of learners committed to the journey together. It is life. It is exciting. It is unknown. The mission is as much a personal one for our family as it is for those families that we serve and that choose this mission. Creating a place where our young ones teach each other, teach themselves, the quest for learning, the quest for finding what it takes to use their gifts, find joy and impact the world. We believe that creating this school is work that matters and that the world desperately needs it.
Anissa and I came to know Acton Academy well before we had our own children from our friends Russ and Dani Foltz-Smith. Russ was the CTO of our company and Dani an innovator and mom alongside their two girls, Reese and Bella. The Foltz-Smith’s were part of the early years of the Acton Academy experiment in Austin before returning home to Venice Beach California where they would start Acton Venice Beach. After attending a couple of Acton “Exhibitions of Learning” and a few “Children’s Business Fairs” Anissa and I became increasingly curious about this new model of education. In fact, I recall one of the company Christmas Parties where Dani and I would riff almost the entire event in the corner on “if you could create a school from scratch, what would it look like”? This was 9 years ago.
What always struck me as as I observe Acton Hero’s (what we refer to our ‘students’) through the years is self awareness and a sense of purpose and ownership that what they were doing was important. From the outside it seemed foreign. Trusting learners with their learning? How is excellent work measured? What about (fill in the blank)? Lots and lots of trust, curiosity, questions, and trials. Experiment everywhere. As adults, we are equally challenged, tasked with articulating our own hero’s journey, providing recipes, tools and process that allow learners to solve their own problems. Important to this, never straying from the mission to inspire our young geniuses for a life of meaning and purpose – not a preconceived destination – or as Brene Brown put it “the road to nowhere.”
Which leads me to a social post Russ made this past week that struck a chord with me. For context, Acton Venice Beach is entering their 8th year. Bella and Reese are now beginning their Senior and Sophomore years as they prepare for their next adventure. Russ shared:
“I stopped in at @actonvenice this morning to hook up new wifi to support outdoor activities. I was alone in the space the community has made. in the environment that our guides and kids have grown. it was filled with piles of potential. materials not yet deployed. supplies for cleaning and making new. my soul fluttered a bit, in joyful and sorrowful ways. we have been at this school thing for so long. each year seems like the first year. new ideas, new challenges, everyone growing and changing. this year more than any year seems like year zero. what are we doing? how will we do it? are we prepared?
we will keep adapting, trying and making opportunities for the curious. it is our life’s work. this is Bella’s senior year, Reese’s sophomore. education is our family’s life force.
and so I fluttered at what has been, what is and what can be.
and then I went back to work, preparing for all that we cannot know but will seek.” – Russ
Here’s to the adventure ahead, a clear mission, full of unknowns, trust, a work needed in the world, a work worth doing. We are excited for our two, Ayla and Blake, and the families that we will serve!
By: Jeffrey Couvillon, Community Champion and Head of School