The Importance of Equity & Access
After 20 years in administration, I’m finally starting to understand how time helps individuals become the best possible versions of themselves. The years make us older but also wiser. I can no longer do some things that came more easily in my youth. I can’t run, jump, throw or compete physically like I did 30 years ago. I now tend to lean on my experiences rather than my physical abilities or raw emotion, and these professional and life experiences are comprised of my own wins and losses as well as the successes and shortcomings of all the leaders that I’ve observed throughout my life thus far.
When we were planning the EDGE program at Beechwood, we all brought unique experiences and perspectives to the table. My two requests were that the program must (a) have equity and access as well as (b) social/emotional growth opportunities for our students.
Experience has taught me that we can always have programs for select students, but the only way to achieve maximum change is to design a program accessible to every student.
And if we have a program that raises test scores, but increases student anxiety…or improves college entrance metrics, but hurts a kid’s self-esteem, is it really a value-add for the school or the student? The value of the EDGE program is that every student is immersed in developing skills deemed important by businesses, industry leaders and post-secondary institutions: Being resilient...thinking critically...understanding quality research...embracing team diversity. These are the skills that employers and universities are looking for and they are as important as SAT or ACT scores or even a student’s GPA. At Beechwood, we call them our core concepts. And they will be developed in each and every Beechwood student, from preschool through 12th grade, as critical pillars of the EDGE program.
The other issue, which continues to weigh on my mind, is the increasing need for social and emotional support for our students. I have no idea how we got to such a dire place, but the fact remains that we are seeing more and more students who need assistance in handling stress and personal feelings. As an educator, I see this as one of our most important tasks as foundational members of our local communities. Our children are stressed about school and their futures. They are dealing with family circumstances that are weighing heavy on them. Their social environments are more complex than ever before due to social media and the sharing of content virtually. I absolutely can’t imagine my entire childhood being captured on video (by friend and foe). So how do we foster our students’ social and emotional growth? Like most schools, we have implemented a national curriculum, but it is not enough. We all think that building a more resilient kid is a key to success, both in the classroom and in life. This skill is not innate to our kids. You aren’t born resilient. You aren’t born a risk taker. You aren’t born to seek out the silver lining in every situation. Actually, your natural survival instinct is to do the opposite. It is much easier to be negative and blame others or even run from a tough academic challenge. But we believe resilience is a skill - and an important one - that can be developed during a student’s academic journey on Beechwood Road.
Schools must work to help shape a child that is better-served to grow up in the modern age where work isn’t guaranteed as it was for the generations before, where negativity reigns on social media from accounts that don’t even list the correct name of the person making the claims. Our responsibility to parents is not as simple as teaching math and reading.
Our responsibility is to help build a student that can lead in the coming decades. One that can shift with the trends and can adapt to any environment. A child who can be a value-add to a community or organization, but can easily relocate and learn a new community’s culture and be equally as valuable without the support of their hometown. And finally, a person who depends on themselves for the evaluation of their work and self-worth, not the number of likes or shares of their Instagram post.
The true power of the EDGE program is not academic performance; it is the development and growth of a well-rounded person. Maybe it will help speed up the process so our students can become the best possible versions of themselves at a much faster rate than I did.
Dr. Mike S. Stacy