The Relationship Between Schools and Communities is More Important than We Think
posted on December 16, 2017 by Tony Monfiletto
“Investing in the social and emotional well-being of our students is a practical investment in our futureand one of the best ways to change some of the troubling trends in our community.”
Albuquerque’s moral around education has long been struggling. In a recent survey commissioned by the Albuquerque Journal, only 11 percent of the citizens in our state are satisfied with our education system and just under 90 percent of those surveyed believe that there are very serious or somewhat serious problems with our public schools.
How would students experience school differently if we thought that they were integral to making their communities healthier and more prosperous, rather than places to escape?
Consider this phenomenon along with other “quality of life” indicators and it is clear that our challenge is much greater than the quality of our public schools. Only eight percent of those surveyed are satisfied with the strength of the economy, nine percent are happy with the crime rate, and 12 percent feel like there are enough good paying jobs in our state.
The common wisdom is to think of schools as a microcosm of the community and education suffers when parents can’t find good jobs and live in crime ridden neighborhoods. In essence, the schools are a reflection of where they reside and as poverty increases they become less effective. Ultimately, we lose confidence in our school’s ability to serve our children. This scenario suggests that our schools are ineffective because they are subject to the conditions that are outside of their control -“Show me a prosperous and healthy community and I’ll show you a good school.” The premise is that the two are impossibly intertwined.
But we could be looking at schools another way. Imagine a different kind of microcosm built on a reciprocal relationship between schools and communities that propels both forward. What does it feel like to be in a school that believes their community is an asset rather than a burden that has to be overcome? How would students experience school differently if we thought that they were integral to making their communities healthier and more prosperous, rather than places to escape?
If I had one wish for our city, it would be to give all of our young people the positive youth development experience I witnessed at [Technology Leadership High School.]
Last week, invitied a mix of 60 community leaders, educators, and elected officials to join us for our first Positive Youth Development Tour. We started the tour with the premise that young people and communities are assets, and that the educational system works because of these things not in spite of them. The Tour offered a glimpse into schools and the lives of young people that are passionate about investing in their neighborhoods, showcasing that social and emotional support and positive identity are the pathways to success.
I joined the tour at Technology Leadership High School (TLHS) and was thrilled by what I saw: Young people talking about their learning and their growth to becoming adults. We talked at length in the debrief about how the skills they have learned at the school will serve them as adults. While we talked about specific interpersonal skills like collaboration and adaptability, I was more impressed with their self-awareness. They discussed how they had grown since the enrolled. For example, they talked about the patience they developed by helping the elderly learn about how to use the internet. They were also mentors to elementary school students near their school and they discussed how good it felt to be valued.
If I had one wish for our city, it would be to give all of our young people the positive youth development experience I witnessed at TLHS. Investing in the social and emotional well-being of our students is a practical investment in our future and one of the best ways to change some of the troubling trends in our community.