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by John Savage, Founder of The Academy for Individual Excellence

     The idea of Accountability as one of the pillars for the Academy is to take away the refuge that some children have learned to take in being a victim. If a child feels like a victim—if we allow them to feel like victims and identify themselves as victims—they immediately do not have to take responsibility for what they do or for its outcomes. “If it's a teacher's fault, I'm not at fault, and so I'm the victim and I don't have to take accountability for my actions or think about how to be creative to find a solution. I get to shut down and quit. So, if I try and can't, then I can be the victim and it's over. Students sometimes come to us having already learned how to be helpless, to hide in that and not let themselves be held accountable.

     It's very important to us at AIE to create opportunities for students to see and know that they are in control. The last question on a test is always, "Tell me what you know.” That means, “Tell me everything you can remember from the last two weeks that we've done in class that comes to your mind." It's not extra credit, it's part of the scoring. You always are accountable for the test and for your results, but what if the teacher asked questions to which you didn’t know the answer but didn’t ask about the material that was really interesting to you and that you studied and got to know well? “Tell me what you know” gives you the opportunity to answer questions the teacher did not ask. It lets you take control of the test and make good things happen.

     The same goes for reports, science experiments and other projects: If you don't have the ability to write a paper easily, but you put your time in and log it, and do as much as you have the ability to do, then you are in control. You are accountable for that time and what you did with it, and we can respect you for that. If what you set out to do doesn’t work in the way you hoped that it would, but you have put in your time and done everything that was asked of you, what you committed to do, then you are accountable for that. We can congratulate you and thank you for that. You held yourself accountable for it and did not give up. You can say, “I spent this amount of time and did this and this, and here is what I learned from it.” And that is the result we want. That is what the challenge was.


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