The most productive and happy adults live balanced, purpose-driven lives in which they are motivated to do excellent work day-in, day-out, within a warm professional community. Few teens live such lives, and most are not prepared to create such lives upon graduation. It is time to redesign “school” so that this way of living is both familiar and attainable to teens, before and after graduation.
Can you imagine a teen environment where peer pressure is focused on becoming your best self? How would each day flow for your teen if they were surrounded by peers who were not only enthusiastic and focused on their own self-identified purpose—but also supported your teen's commitment to a defined personal purpose?
Notably, the achievements of 20th-century Hungarian mathematics sprang from a culture in which mathematics competitions were prestigious amongst teens. This kind of focused, sustained manifestation of human motivation“and consequent genius”is not common among American teens. A peer community devoted to personal excellence is a powerful motivating factor. ATI employs several key mechanisms which emphasize and promote a culture of peer-inspired and mentor-supported social motivation.
ATI's Life Design Course includes coaching on both intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. Intrapersonal skills emphasized include developing positive self-talk, the practice of meditation, and the option to use technology to measure improvements. Interpersonal skills emphasized include direct communication and the power of “crucial conversations,” non-violent communication, and a community norm that rejects indirect communication, including gossip. Through the consistent cultivation of specific communication techniques, and by taking a lack of respect for the community norm seriously, ATI is able to consistently cultivate the high standards that support a thriving, healthy peer culture.
ATI's Socratic Humanities Course involves real-time coaching on understanding and respecting different opinions and belief systems along with real-time coaching on group dynamics. In addition to the intellectual component of these courses, students are constantly learning about one another's beliefs while clarifying their own, in a context where conflict is managed deliberately. Initially adults model and enforce the norms that enable deep dialogue, but over time older students internalize norms, lead discussions, and enforce norms capably themselves. This sets a tone in which the social norm throughout the ATI community is to be thoughtful, respectful participants in serious discussions of often challenging issues.
ATI's community rituals of sharing information, asking for forgiveness, and expressing appreciation are ultimately valued by all students. Over time, participation in community rituals becomes a source of exceptional warmth and openness. This sort of structured social activity is inspirational to teens and invites the development of deeper connections, compassion, and understanding.
Student leadership opportunities include significant input into the school decision-making functions whenever possible (e.g. changes in policies, addressing hot issues in the community, etc.) Additionally, daily clean-up and care for the physical space is led and managed by students—who in turn hold other students accountable.
Intensive personal coaching of individual students takes place through a structured mentorship program. Each teen has a specific mentor who typically meets with him or her on a weekly basis to ensure that the teen is healthy, well, and acting in alignment with chosen goals. If a student falls out of integrity with their goals, the mentor's responsibility is to coach the teen back into alignment, involving parents when necessary.
In the right learning environment, high school students are capable of much more than conventional education permits them to achieve. Teens that choose ATI are ready for responsibility and able to take ownership over their own education in a way that the control mechanisms of typical schooling make virtually impossible.
If the average high school experience just doesn't inspire your teen, consider the Academy of Thought and Industry. We're looking forward to connecting with you and answering all of your questions.
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