668. Expert Interview: Finding the Genius in You
Jeff Sandefer is an entrepreneur and a socratic teacher. As an entrepreneur, he started his first company at 16. His latest venture grew to several billion dollars in assets. As a socratic teacher, The Economist magazine named him one of the top 15 business school professors in the world. Now, he’s a full-time middle school teacher at Acton Academy, a cutting-edge K-12 school whose one-room school house for the 21st-century model is spreading across the globe, with over 80 affiliates and over 8,000 applications from parent entrepreneurs who want to launch a school.
A graduate of the Harvard Business School, he served over 20 years on the school’s governing committees. He is one of the youngest members ever elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.
Finding the Genius in You
As his two sons were finishing Montessori, Jeff asked his middle school daughter’s best teacher how soon he should enroll his boys in a classroom. The teacher’s response startled him. “Enroll them as soon as possible. After they’ve had that kind of freedom in Montessori, they won’t like being chained to a desk and being lectured for eight hours a day.” He and his wife, Laura, immediately knew they needed to find a different way that would nurture each of their children’s inner genius and help them on their own individual hero’s journeys. For Laura and Jeff, education was the key, and they set out to create what became Acton Academy.
Why Is This Important?
“We’ve tapped into this wave of people who are saying traditional school is not enough. The model that worked in the 18th and 19th century and some in the 20th century is not the model we need to prepare young people for the 21st century.”
“We developed an approach that helps students on their hero’s journey. Our program helps students answer four key questions:
1) Who am I? That’s where the hero’s journey is critical.
2) What skills do I need to learn, and which skill must I master, something I’m gifted at doing? I need to read, write, do simple math; but there’s something I’m gifted in that I need to master.
3) Who will affirm me and hold me accountable? Great teachers affirm you and tell you that you’re one of the special ones.
4) How can I prove what I can do? How can I show you evidence? Can you engage me to solve a difficult problem?”
What Are the Key Lessons Learned Here?
“We don’t serve helicopter parents, and we don’t serve parents who rescue their children from struggles. You have to be willing to let your child suffer and struggle and fail, because part of the hero’s journey is getting up when you fall down, dusting yourself off, and trying again. Heroes do not always win, but heroes always get back up, so we can’t help a parent who won’t allow their child to be knocked down and hurt.”
Connecting With Jeff Sandefer
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