“Ugh… I hate Mondays…” was a comment heard all too often in the teacher’s lounge as we started the week, during my first years as a teacher. No doubt teaching is a demanding profession, (there’s way more to it than the typical “but you get summers off and all of those holidays” judgment made by people who have no idea how much time good teachers put in to improve their craft). No doubt being a high school teacher at an inner-city school in Chicago is even more demanding but something just felt off about hearing almost every colleague talk about Mondays as dreadful. God forbid if the coffee machine wasn’t working on a Monday morning.
The Warriors at The Humanist Academy, however, have not only “turned learning upside-down” as Jeff and Laura (the founders of Acton Academy) describe it, but they’ve managed to turn this pessimistic impression of Mondays upside down as well.
To say that Mondays at THA are incredible is an understatement. As the Warriors trickle into the studio and gather on the playground, a magical buzz fills the air. During their free-time from 8:00-8:30, they catch up with one another about their weekends or play sports together outside, while some just sit and read. Others will even work on their Core Skills or a Quest challenge. The excitement to be back in the studio and to see their studiomates, the eagerness to learn…it is awesome!
Then right around 8:28 they start to gather around for morning launch. As 8:30 hits, they greet one another and start their day with a few meditative minutes. Their first major challenge: Can you find happiness and peace just by closing your eyes and concentrating on something? Can you train your mind to find a state of flow devoid of any external stimulus? Our Warriors, who started this practice at 1.5-2 minutes every morning, have built up to about 4 and 1/2 minutes of complete silence every morning.
The ensuing discussion, as part of the Morning Launch, is usually Hero’s Journey related and inspirational. Last week, we discussed “Success is a journey, not a destination” and challenged our Warriors to think about excellent work. Is it better to get something done or to take your time? Is it better to focus on the result or the process? We watched this inspiring TED Talk to help provide some context. Tomorrow’s morning launch will center around the inspiring story of Jeison Aristizabal, a hero who, despite being born with cerebral palsy, has impacted thousands of lives.
The Socratic discussions, running-team meetings which involve Warriors supporting one another in setting their goals for the week and reflecting on last week, community-building games, and Core Skills fill the morning, while free-time, DEAR, and Quest usually take up the afternoons.
But perhaps my favorite part of the day happens around 9:30. As I make a round and peak into every studio, I’m almost always at awe of seeing these little societies of heroes engrossed in their own work. One Warrior is working on his math, another is working on her writing, another his spelling, and another is immersed in a book. It is so cool to see them all so engaged in meaningful and productive work, entirely on their own. There’s no teacher telling them what to do. Despite this being a daily occurrence, it still amazes me, especially on Mondays.
The Spark studio is no exception. You’ll have one Warrior working on a bead chain, another doing sight words, while another is working in the practical life section. They are all working on their goals independently with focus and motivation that’s beyond description. The studio is not entirely quiet; there’s a soft, inviting buzz in the background as one Warrior teaches another one a work, while the others work silently. As I walk around and observe the Warriors in flow, I can’t help but think, “Ahh…I love Mondays!”
When Quest time comes around the Spark Warriors are out in the garden working on their botany quest, while the ES and MS Warriors have transformed their studio into a law school as they prepare for their upcoming debate.
I’m not sure how many professionals out there dread showing up to work on a Monday morning. My guess would be that the number is significant. While I’m not sure how many people out there are just waiting for Friday to hit so they can escape the discouraging realities of their weekdays, I am certainly sure of two things: 1) Mondays at THA are definitely something to look forward to, and 2) Our hope is that during their time at THA and throughout their Hero’s Journey, they discover their calling, a higher purpose that helps them lead a meaningful life, makes a positive impact on society, and inevitably makes waking up on a Monday morning THAT much more exciting.