I am not new to disruptive education. In fact, I was a founding student at Acton Academy, an innovative school based on project learning and the Socratic method. From second to eighth grade, I was an Acton Eagle, learning through disruptive educational methods. At the end of eighth grade I decided to leave Acton Academy and experiment with traditional education. Although I enjoyed Acton and gained skills that I will employ throughout the rest of my life, I wanted to join a bigger community with a more traditional approach to education. I decided on a classical school in the spring of my eighth grade year, and was excited to start my next adventure.
My Experience in a Traditional School
I enjoyed many aspects of the classical school I attended. I cultivated a strong group of friends, and playing organized sports was something I had never really experienced before. Staying for the rest of my high school education was something I was sure about during my first semester. Every thing was going well, and I was content with my decision to change schools.
The honeymoon phase started to fade after Christmas break. Red flags started to appear that made me think twice about returning for tenth grade. I noticed a widespread apathy among my peers. Everyone was counting down the time until the next break. They were disinterested in the work itself. Not many people around me actually wanted to be there. Getting good grades was the goal, not learning. Once I noticed this among my classmates, I realized it was part of me as well. I wasn’t learning anything worth my time, and what I was learning was only to be forgotten after the test. I found that I was watching the clock during class, waiting for the next bell. And the next one, and the one after that, until it was finally time to go home. My education became a waiting game. Waiting for the next bell, the next weekend, the next break, waiting for school to be over. My year flew by thinking this way, which forced me to ask the question: What’s the point of going to high school if you spend all of your time waiting for it to be over?
My Decision to Go Out on My Own
My decision to leave came after spring break. I had just returned from a paragliding trip with my dad and one of his friends. I realized two things after this trip. The first was about my freedom to paraglide. Traveling to fly was inhibited by my current school schedule, and paragliding had become an important part of my life that had been neglected because of my lackluster education. The second thing I realized came from my dad’s friend. He told me that I was wasting my time at school, and I could be doing worthwhile work somewhere else. This thought had been in the back of my head since January, but now I was confronted with it. I knew he was right, I was wasting my time. Sitting in class only to be thinking about it being over was not a sustainable plan for high school. The world was out there for me to explore. There were exotic places to visit, important skills to hone, and passions to pursue. I wasn’t going to find my calling in a traditional classroom.
The day after we returned, I made the decision not to return to traditional education for my sophomore year. My journey of “hacking high school” was just beginning.