Acton Academy Omaha

Catching Monsters

As our 7 heroes shake hands to greet me each morning and step across the rocky threshold to the playground, they magically transform. They step into a special world where they are a hero and bravely fight monsters of all kinds. They call on one another for help and wield their special powers together as a team (most of the time :-)) “Hulk, we need you!!” I hear them say. Or when Hulk starts crying with an “owie”, they acknowledge him and say, “Sorry Hulk!” and off they go with smiles. Yes, I’m pleased to introduce you to Hulk, Batman, Ironman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Super Girl, and Leader (affirmed by this tribe as the leader of them all)! The special world of the playground is like a “hero training ground” where they push themselves and try new things with courage.

And do you know what is beautiful? The heroes are beginning to internalize what it means to be a hero. Heroes fight monsters – and we definitely had some monsters to fight and catch this week in the studio! As the heroes and I sat around our morning circle, I called them by their playground hero identities and whispered to them that I needed their help. There was a monster on the loose that was seeking to destroy each of them. We started to co-create the story of what each hero did to fight the monster and what happened as a result. As each hero tried their power on the monster, it just kept getting bigger and bigger. In fact, at one point the monster swallowed all of the heroes whole. They thought all was lost until Ironman used his power to split the monster in two from the inside. The heroes were freed! Until they realized that this huge monster had begun to split into thousands of mini monsters, much like worms that are cut in half. They were everywhere. Another hero was able to use her power to make all of the monsters freeze in mid-action, and scientists were able to study them.

The scientists were able to give us a report of who these monsters were, and what it takes to catch them. Although now hundreds of monsters exist, we discovered there were only three different kinds: Resistance, Victimhood and Distraction. Each was merely a copy of one of these three. We learned that Resistance tries to make heroes get stuck, saying “I’m not going to do it!”. We discovered the key to get free from Resistance is movement. Victimhood tries to make heroes think, “There is nothing I can do about this!” We discovered the key to get free from Victimhood’s grasp is to make a choice – since we always have choices. Distraction? We learned that he’s very sneaky. Distraction at first seems like such a good, fun monster. He offers you everything you want – like a cake, a party or a laugh. Except it’s only later you find out that the seemingly good things he offers are actually poisonous. He is not a good monster at all. What’s the key to getting free from Distraction? We discovered it is by choosing to focus on something.

As the heroes were introduced to these three monsters, they were invited into the challenge of catching as many as possible. As we spread these monsters’ faces all across the room, each hero was blindfolded and led to a monster by a studio mate, who then acted like the monster they had come upon – and if the blindfolded hero correctly guessed the monster, they caught it!

It has been amazing to see our heroes begin to internalize the fact that fighting monsters as a hero is normal – and we celebrate each time a hero overcomes/catches a monster by giving them a little token monster they get to color and keep in their “monster collection”. I’ve seen our heroes encourage each other when they are battling a monster, saying, “You can do it! We need you!!” and even at times begin chanting the hero’s name. These moments are precious. They show the tribal connections that are beginning to form.

One other story from this week…

During Studio Maintenance on Friday, more playing than cleaning was happening. In these moments, I remind the heroes of what is at stake – their extra outside playing time- if they end up using all of this time during studio maintenance. The oldest hero was the only one at that moment doing his job. And he was feeling frustrated about that. “I’m so frustrated that I’m the only one doing my job… and I WANT TO GO OUTSIDE!!”

“Would you like to see who else wants to finish this so they can go outside?” I asked him. Off he went. Soon, he found the other two oldest heroes who also wanted to work hard and go outside. We went and sat together on the gray rug, and began to reflect together (as the younger heroes were still running circles around us :-p). I asked them, “What guardrails are the others not upholding right now?” They reflected. “Are there any promises that should be up there that aren’t?” I asked. “No running in the studio,” one said. “No wrestling,” another other said. As the heroes are currently working on creating their own contract of promises to each other, I invited them to write these ideas up on our list to try. When some of the other younger heroes decided to come to join the discussion, we made room for the older heroes to share feedback with the younger ones, and share the ideas of promises they had come up with. We took a vote, and the oldest heroes voted in the new promises to try out before they are added to the contract.

What a beautiful example of how, day by day, the strength of the tribe to own their learning and experience is being formed.