What do you need for a transformational education?

By Peter Rooney, President, Atlanta Youth Academy (AYA)
When I transferred schooAA_L1503ls in 10th grade, it put me on a new track. I was surrounded by very capable students, people my own age who cared about education. My new classmates went home to families that cared about education. For me this new opportunity was transformational. It made a difference to my future, accelerated by exposure to teachers who cared, professional educators who’d go the extra mile to make sure you understood the lesson or appropriately completed a homework assignment.
Recently I purchased a used car. The engine seemed a lot simpler—not a lot of computer control. This made me think about how things used to be. I wonder if there are some lessons in this? I wonder if there are transformational reminders? Things did look a lot simpler under the hood. 
I wonder if our lives have gotten too complex and too busy with all that we try to crowd into the engine space? All this technology under a new vehicle is not only “under the hood” but out of clear view, in a way that might stymie reactions if the car went out of control. That does seem true in the lives of our students. Too much technology? Are the issues masked under a pretty engine cover? 
Perhaps we should keep it simple.  
I heard a speaker at Plywood Presents. He said we need to make sure that our young people find a way to be bored, because as a consequence they will create, they will imagine, they will find a way to turn a stick into a baseball bat. Or is that a telescope? A rocket ship? We do not have to entertain, and we do not have to put as much as possible in with the engine. To provide transformational education, we must keep it simple.
And what about fuel? That has pretty much remained the same over my 50+ years — if we are without fuel we will break down on the side of the road. If our young people are without fuel they will be too tired to learn. To benefit from a transformational education our students need to be fueled with proper rest, proper food and hydration, and proper encouragements from home.
Changing schools immersed me with teachers and students who provided transformational education to each other, experiencing it as a team. Here at AYA, our students are in a similar situation. AYA is not perfect and we are not the only educational option. We are, however, a Christ-centered school that will point each student towards his or her own unique embodiment of success — today and throughout AYA’s history. Students understand that they are going somewhere after AYA: they’re going to another school that will be transformational — this might be a boarding school, or a day school in the metro Atlanta area — and then, after that, on to college! 
Transformation is easier when students, parents, and guardians are on board together. When we are all pulling oars in the same direction. We hope in a series of blog posts throughout the year to help folks see “under the hood.” To see that it is simple. To see the wonderful outcomes that emerge when we allow students to be creative. And to see how we — together — can provide a transformational education to well-fueled young people. God bless you and God bless AYA.

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