The Hero’s Journey: Mastery

At Acton Imprimis Salado, we agree with Sal Kahn that mastery is extremely important and love his analogy of buliding a house with a faulty foundation. In fact, his house analogy applies to all educational tracts, trades, and even our personal identites. It is just as important to really know yourself, your gifts, talents, beliefs, and calling as it is to have exceptional mastery over course subjects.
People ask me, Dr. Thompson, why is it that you stress this idea of “mastery” so much? Because, I know that what Sal Khan is describing is not just a pedagogy, it’s a lifestyle that empowers people. You’re not going to meet very many people, if there are any, that walk around with a victim’s mentality whenever they live a life of mastery.  Why? Because, with mastery comes struggle, hardships, failure, and an innate ability to pick yourself up again and try harder. People who live a mastery lifestyle savor their journeys because they know that the journey prepares them for the destination. People with a mastery lifestyle realize that Luck is just the crossroads of when preparation meets opportunity.
People with a mastery lifestyle tend to be experts in their fields, whether they graduated from college or not, and rise to the tops of their fields. All because they slowed down and mastered their chosen fields of endeavors. Seriously.
This idea of embracing mastery is not something that you have to wait until you’re an adult to do. You don’t need permission from a school counselor or coach. Part of the human experience is understanding that you were created with specific gifts and talents, you have a specific purpose/calling, and you will live a very fulfilled life once you embrace and master your gifts, so you can be equipped to live-out your God-given callings. This is why we start integrating the concept of mastery into our preK studio and build upon that concept throughout our eagles’ (students’) time with us at Acton Imprimis Salado. PreK-12th grade. Everyone is expected to reach mastery in all work attempted. It’s also likely the reason why our program is almost 250% more in-depth than the traditional public school TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) requirements for graduation. Yes. Our eagles do approximately 250% more work, with mastery, than a traditional public school and are fully equipped to do it.
It’s not just us, though. Here’s a quote from a sister school in Waco:
 We are not a traditional school which will pass your child to the next grade level with a 70%.  We require mastery, which yes, is very challenging.  Mastery takes time, patience, struggle and a lot of failure.  We want to focus more on the process of learning and not the badges themselves.  We need to come back to the why with the parents and the Eagles. It’s really easy to get caught up in Eagle Bucks, points, and badges and forget about the real reason they are here and the joy in the actual learning.  No matter what the program is, mastery is hard. It is really really hard.  They will find the same type of struggle no matter what. We recognize that nothing that we offer is perfect, no program is, but we believe it is a lot better than what you get in traditional school.  There is so much to be gained from mastering a concept that is difficult…but the benefits of that process are only gained for the learner if we let the struggle happen and continue to support but step back as they figure it out on their own
– Kristina Baucom (Acton Academy Waco) 
Mastery is hard. Mastery requires actual learning. Mastery murders the idea that memorization is enough to get by or even the idea of just getting by. Reaching mastery is a struggle, a fight, and very rewarding. Mastery is how we build the solid foundations that will not fail us as we reach upward to higher heights. Mastery is not for the faint of heart. Mastery is meant for heroes.
Arrows up!
Dr. Suzy Thompson


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