At least once a day, I feel like I’m dying inside. Usually, this comes when Ms. Malin, our amazing Head of School, reminds me that her and I have an agreement that there is no place for her and I to fuss and chide about broken promises. Every impulse tells me to be the policeman, but that would undermine the entire Acton system.

In Acton Academy, we have several systems of accountability. We have the Studio Contract, which I have written about. There is a contract of promises Eagles make to each other (do not distract, speak with kindness and encouragement, etc.), a Socratic Rules of Engagement for our Discussions, and our Guardrails (my own rules for safety. They are set in stone). Breaking these means learners can ask for Eagle Bucks. Eagle Bucks are hard to earn, easy to lose, and are achieved by earning points in their Core Skill systems. Earning Eagle Bucks means the ability to buy prizes from the Eagle Buck Store, while losing them means lower freedom levels, strikes for finishing in a deficit, and eventually weightier consequences for continual failure to progress.

I am now repeating myself, because I know I’ve talked about all this before. My point is, none of this will work unless there is miserable failure, which is what these first weeks is about. Ms. Malin also struggles seeing this, but we remind each other that failure is where the learning happens. We are gritting our teeth as we watch them struggle, but struggle creates tough-mindedness. And tough-mindedness and warm-heartedness are the two qualities with which Eagles will evaluate each other. Tough but kind. This is the aim at Acton, and it only comes at the end of failure.

A note from Mrs. Malin

  • reward effort
  • fail early fail cheaply
  • embrace failure as an opportunity

A talk on failure from a successful business person