Work hard, play hard. The new motto for ES.

Hello lovely ES tribe,

Well we are not even quite halfway through the session and this little ES tribe is nigh unrecognizable from who they were three weeks ago. This will come as no surprise to those of you who have had me as a guide for your kids in the past. 

"If there's a change worth making tomorrow (or a year from now!) ya might as well make it today."  Mr. Lance 1/18/2024. Lol. 

But for newcomers who are uneasy with a lot of change in a short amount of time, let me share a secret: it's all about empowering our learners to take ownership of their learning journey, love coming to school every day, love learning (yes, those two are very different) and to embrace the hero's journey that will lead them through a very severe road of trials on the way to finding a calling and changing the world. 

Forgive a bit of background context here, but I feel it may be helpful to understand where the ES has been the last few years. In short, the ES has been through the ringer! 😂 Year 1 may have been the golden year for ES. Aim consisted of mostly ES learners back then and subsequently our quests were designed for the ES, only then to be scaled up for the older learners and scaled down for our younger learners. That paradigm sort of reversed in Year 2 when we had to begin 'pitching' to the older learners and then scaling down quests for the ES. In Year 3, the ES went through yet another major change of being separated from the other learners into their own tribe. Since then, not only have they been on par with the upper studios in terms of changes in systems, processes, etc. (which is A LOT), but they have now had three changes in guides.

Now don't get me wrong, they have rolled with the punches every time. be more accurate, they have done more than that. We at Aim believe in antifragility as opposed to just resilience--meaning they haven't just weathered the storms, they have grown from them. Tremendously. But in some ways the ES felt like a patchwork quilt pieced together from leftovers from other studios--even if those leftovers were gems. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. But these last few weeks have convinced me it wasn't the best thing. 

As I have reflected on the ES's journey, it's pretty interesting to note that while the choices  impacting their tribe were the right decisions at the time, the cumulative effect of them has missed the mark. Which may be why 4 out of the last 5 eagles who have leveled up to the middle school failed to do so on time 🤔  Regardless, as I have been auditing everything in the studio, it is extremely clear that the studio needed a good spring cleaning. Overly complicated systems, cluttered badges, far too many online software offerings, etc. We need to get back to the basics--a genuinely happy and curious learner-driven community committed to excellence.

So...naturally I set about systematically dismantling everything the ES has ever built or loved. 

Just kidding...sort of. 

Allow me to detail a few of the changes I am talking about. 

1) Today I announced that all badges other than reading and math badges are being eliminated. 

"Now that's just crazy talk Mr. Lance...without those, how on earth will you motivate them to learn anything!" 

Well I'm so glad you asked! 😏

Badges are just one of dozens of tools we use at Aim to motivate eagles (And yes, they are nothing more than a tool--the means to an end, not the end itself. Which can easily be forgotten in the kerfuffle of chaos at Aim, or more commonly, at home.). There are still plenty of motivational tools at our disposal such as daily points, eagle bucks, SMART goals, 360 feedback, inspiring launches, the house cup, general internal motivation, personalized learning plans, Odyssey incentives, curiosity, the gamification of learning, real-world problem solving, the afternoon adventures, various competitions, exhibitions, milestones, peer-to-peer accountability and the inherent joy of learning and growing just to name a few.  (Not to mention a few new ideas I am going to be trying out). These are all still in place and it is my belief that not only will these serve to produce far greater love of learning and real-life learning (insert executive functions skills, leadership, emotional intelligence skills, time management, project management, and clear critical thinking skills here), but they will also serve to produce greater academic mastery in areas like writing, civilizations, adventures, art, and PE than if we had badges for each of these. 

2) See the subject line of this email. Now eagles must earn 50 points each day (work hard) before they are allowed to participate in afternoon Adventures and Odyssey (play hard). 10 of these points must come from reading and 10 of these points must come from math. The other 30 points are up to them and can be earned from any and everything else we have at the school. This is a borrowed page from Year 1 and it feels really good to be getting back to our roots in ways like this. 

3) Future changes forthcoming! This is a massive undertaking of both simplification and creating less out of more. Many aspects of the current setup of the studio really just didn't add to deep learning. In some instances, the complexity of them actually hurt. Sometimes it caused the studio to waste valuable time navigating things that didn't really add to the bottom line. Simply put, there has been such a focus on the how and the what, that they have forgotten the why. 

Not surprisingly, they have already embraced a new mantra, by deed, if not necessarily by word: the destination is what truly matters. Not so much how you get there. The speed at which they've taken to this, and the joy it has brought them speaks to the naturality of this approach. This is their natural way of learning. Their steady state. Being overly preoccupied with the 'right' way of doing things, of proving mastery, etc took about as much energy to maintain a fish swimming upstream. And like a rubber band snapping back into have they. 

Helping them rediscover that why is going to be my mission for the rest of this year. This has turned into a rallying cry you might hear in the studio, spoken with conviction and determination from those who remember--'reclaim the magic'. 

To do this, we are cutting the fat and trimming the beard *gasp*.  And it is already paying dividends. Just this afternoon in landing, for the first time in far too long, I think everyone started to feel like a tribe. The smiles in our closing circle showed the deepest contentment and excitement for the future I have seen in a long time. 

It really is magic. 

Hi, I'm Lance Stewart.

I'm the founder and Head of School at Aim Academy.

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