An ‘Orderly’ Studio is not the Goal!

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall in your learner’s studio?  

Things at Journey have been humming along lately, and we seem to be settling into a healthy rhythm. As I’ve been observing this, I’ve found myself reflecting on an important principle that I think is worth exploring at this point in the year. In short, an orderly studio is NOT the goal. 

Coming to this realization has been something of a process for me, one that has required me to unlearn the many strategies of classroom management, all of which were focused on coercing children to sit quietly at their desks and do what adults wanted them to do.

And, indeed, there is something seemingly right about walking into a classroom with students docilely sitting in rows, quietly hunched over worksheets. It speaks of discipline, respect, and authority.

As tidy as this vision may be, it has some serious limitations.

Most importantly, and the key thing I want you to take away from this, is that an orderly studio is not the goal; it is the outcome. It is the outcome of a studio that has developed effective systems of self-governance and self-management, where the learners have the agency, tools, and maturity to function independently, no longer reliant on adult behavior management techniques that wield fear and control as their primary weapons. 

To say it more bluntly, our goal at Journey Academy is not to coerce your children into doing what we want; it’s to empower them to create a civil society among themselves with clear processes and systems of accountability that allow them to do the important work they have to do without unnecessary micromanagement from adults. Our vision of an ideal learning environment looks less like a classroom and more like Google’s corporate headquarters, buzzing with activity and alive with autonomous, independent, important work.

To be clear, this is still a work in progress. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that sometimes a little friction, and even chaos, is necessary for the tribe to recognize what they don’t want to be and for leaders to emerge and call their peers to a higher standard. In fact, this friction is a signal that transformation is happening and is not to be feared.

So don’t be alarmed if you hear such tales from your young hero. As you do, my encouragement for you is to recognize this for what it is: the messy process of developing leadership, self-awareness, and social skills in our young heroes that are rare among even the highest-functioning adults. I can assure you that such skills won’t be developed while sitting in rows dutifully reproducing mandated worksheets; nor will they be found in those who’ve had adults swoop in to the rescue at the first sign of distress (often to assuage their own anxieties). No, they will be built in the messiness of daily life in the studio, navigating situations, working through friction, and coming out the other side with a greater sense of self, both as an individual and as a member of a larger community. This very thing is happening every day at Journey Academy and it is beautiful to see. 

It’s not for the faint of heart…but a hero’s journey never is. 

Ps – I took a short walk through the school this afternoon and snapped a bunch of pictures to get an idea of what a day in the life of Journey looks like. Feel free to show these pictures to your learner and ask them to tell you about the meaningful work they did this week!