Education on the Edge

Day 209

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 21: Education on the Edge

This model wasn’t based on research or best practices; two terms we hear often in education circles. Not that either are not important, but to create real change, do we fix what’s broken, or as in the quote at the beginning of this story suggests, do we create something new for research to base findings on and mold best practices after?

One thing that was certain, was that Ivor Memorial High was not closed based on research or best practices, so Jack thought, why should its resurgence? IMH wasn’t given enough time to do any meaningful analysis on, nor the opportunity to garner proper attention to its successes.

Jack often found mention of public education’s need for substancial innovation in texts he read. He had come to the conclusion that to innovate, education delivery had to be re-imagined from the ground up; from scratch. Everyone from the onset had to believe in the mission, vision, and values. They must be in this for the love of teaching, community, their city, children, and people in general. No unions. No politics. No hierarchy of position for that matter; equal partners from youth to adults of varying abilities and backgrounds, for the social good of social education. Once again not in taking a side to the benefits of politics, unions, or educational hierarchies, but merely to begin this particular model as grounded in our local community and its specific needs as possible.

With four years under his belt as a Trustee, Jack had been exposed to a lot in education circles. He knew he had hardly touched the surface in that short a time frame, but he had learned enough about what occupied his thoughts most – vulnerable, disengaged students, decisions being made with little to know research behind them, and simply having been witness to a beloved local model that deserved a second chance, to know that this was what he wanted to focus his educational interests on.

Every so often Jack would bring up going private at conferences or in general conversations with those in education, but as much as people loved to grumble and talk about the change that was needed, the idea of anything outside of Public Education seemed to be quickly shot down. Mention of some bad private models, and the logistics behind offering a pay model for a demographic that in large part couldn’t pay to have their kids attend K-12 programming were all good arguments. It’s exactly where Jack took the conversation when mention of going private with IMH was first tabled all those years ago. Especially in light of the social economical challenges many of these families faced and for many generations.

Jack didn’t blame people for shutting down any conversation about going private. Instead, he seen it as a challenge. There were many great aspects of Public Education. He’d seen so many examples first hand from visiting classrooms, attending Parent Council and community meetings, Gala’s celebrating student success, and talking to educators from Educational Assistants, to Principals, Superintendants of Education and Directors. Examples of success were on Facebook, Twitter, and many other social and traditional media outlets. The problem was that failures, with the best intentions for success, were really not getting the air time they deserved.

At the end of one Board meeting each month, the Director and Chair of the Board took a few moments to talk about successes from around the district. One meeting, Jack felt the need to speak up. Not that he didn’t love hearing about the wonderful and inspiring success stories because he did. However, there was a different reality being written all over the City that very few were aware of which was highly unfortunate because those stories were critical to the bigger picture of Public Education.

“Mr. Director, through the Chair, first I wanted to say that I really enjoy these stories of our successes. It’s somewhat comforting knowing that we are having a positive impact on so many of our staff and students from all walks of life and varying abilities across this Board. My concern however, is that we often talk about the importance of our students seeing themselves reflected in their education, but I fear there is a significant cohort who do not find their experiences within the walls of our educational facilities, reflected in these celebrations. Not that I want us to discontinue highlighting the positive, but I would also like us to reflect on our many challenges and discuss what we are doing every day to tackle these barriers. There are likely thousands of students and staff for that matter, that are not reaching their full potential and who do not see their reflection in the same mirrors you or I reflect in each day. Mr. Director, through the Chair, I would like us to take this time each month to also recognize this; to highlight that we care, we are listening, and to acknowledge that addressing our challenges is equally as important as recognizing our successes.”

Nothing ever came from that plea. Well, not nothing or we perhaps wouldn’t be where we are today, however every time the Director and Chair spoke of success, Jack recalled that speech and internally, thought about all of the phone calls, emails, and social media posts he had read over the course of that month. He hoped that others around the Boardroom whether it be Trustee, staff, or those in the audience or watching the Livestream feed of their meetings, thought about their own local challenges during those moments too.

Jack wasn’t looking to go Turbo, but he made a promise to advocate for IMH students and staff when lobbying to be their elected official. He had fought hard for both the students and staff, but now he not only wanted to make good on his word, he knew with every inch of his being that IMH must exist again but in a format drastically opposite to that which initiated IMH’s demise. Not out of spite or to prove anything to anyone, but because it was the right thing to do.

There were too many staff and students that didn’t find themselves reflected in our neighborhood schools so why were we fighting change and shutting down conversations about models outside of that with which has always existed and for the most part, all we know and understand?

From that first conversation Jack had with a teacher about going private, he knew that that was a word – or anything of similar meaning, he would not use to describe this new model of school. For one, this wasn’t a private school. It wasn’t not a ‘public’ school either, but it also wasn’t technically free. Is anything really?

This was Education on the Edge. Throw out everything you know, and be open to letting your imagination let in everything that you don’t.

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