Deeper Learning & Equity: A Call for New Mexico Schools

Deeper Learning & Equity: A Call for New Mexico Schools

By Jaqlyn Baldwin, LCSW, MBA, Siembra Leadership High School | April 26, 2018

“If we continue to have some of the most dismal education stats in the nation, then it is not our kids that are failing, but us as educators, elected officials, business and community leaders that are failing them.”
“If we continue to have some of the most dismal education stats in the nation, then it is not our kids that are failing, but us as educators, elected officials, business and community leaders that are failing them.”
 
“If we continue to have some of the most dismal education stats in the nation, then it is not our kids that are failing, but us as educators, elected officials, business and community leaders that are failing them. “

Last month over 1,300 educators and school leaders from around the globe convened at the annual Deeper Learning Conference, held annually in San Diego. The exchange of equity practices in schools allowed professionals to return home with a rejuvenated sense of purpose.  Opening keynote speaker Carlos Moreno, Director of Big Picture Learning in New York, spread a message of setting aside resources, spaces and time in schools to build relationships with students as critical. A Deep Dive session with the Tariq Khamisa Foundation highlighted the power of forgiveness with young people to combat the school to prison pipeline.  Closing keynote speaker Jeff Duncan-Andrade presented neuropsychological data on how inequality is actually making us sick, with urban youth more likely than war veterans to suffer from PTSD. Our very own Student Support Directors from the Leadership Schools in Albuquerque also shared their own best practices on social emotional support for youth.

We then went on to share our work at the 22nd annual Head to Toe Conference in Albuquerque this month, yet another conference with a keynote speaker demanding change in schools.  

Ideas of equity and social-emotional support of students is nothing new.  However, putting social emotional support into practice at student, staff and schoolwide levels is still the exception, not the norm. The Leadership High Schools have been around for over 8 years now. During that time we have seen the difference that social-emotional support makes in a school environment and in the lives of our students.

One of The Leadership Schools Network distinguishers includes investing in students as assets through positive youth development.  Our network of schools not only talks about support of students, but also puts our money where our mouth is - prioritizing supporting youth through systems, structures, resources and norms.  We view and treat social workers as key school leaders that can make huge differences in school culture and student lives.

Social workers practice with fundamental non-negotiables - starting where the student is, giving unconditional positive regard, empathy, personal warmth and human caring.  As someone that has worked with Albuquerque youth for the last 10 years, my personal philosophy is to meet every young person where they are at. Great social-emotional support workers not only take students as they are, but view them as assets.  No shame, blame or accusation. It’s the most important thing about rebuilding schools, and it’s something that the Leadership Schools practice daily.

Our society talks about kids like they are problems to be solved and ignores their inherent value - judging, sorting, and ranking kids is how current systems operate. But the only way to create a school culture that both promotes high academic expectations and creates an environment that is intellectually and emotionally safe for students is to treat students as assets to be nurtured.  More importantly, the work has led to new insights about teaching and learning that have applications throughout our community, around our state and across the U.S.We can use what we learn from the Network to expand our impact and serve more students throughout the nation.

“There is no other institution that has more time with young people than schools,” argues Gilbert Ramirez, LCSW, former Director of Student Support at Health Leadership High School, now Deputy Director of Behavioral Health for the City of Albuquerque.  As educators, we have a precious opportunity to seriously impact the lives of our youth – for better or for worse. As a network, we intentional target young people that are underserved in traditional larger schools and strive to provide them the very best educational experience as a means of social justice.

This month,at the  2018 El Centro Family Health Suicide Prevention, Intervention & Treatment (PIT) Summit, New Mexico State Senator Gerald Ortiz Y Pino named gun violence as a “public health issue,” and said that there is a “Clear need for school based health centers in every school to address the social, emotional and family needs of students.”  

So what now?  

How do we build on what we know to prioritize the well-being of our kids in school systems?  How do we move beyond lip service and put social/emotional support of students into practice – placing just as much emphasis on social and emotional growth as academics?  

If we continue to have some of the most dismal education stats in the nation, then it is not our kids that are failing, but us as educators, elected officials, business and community leaders that are failing them.  The call for New Mexico is then to not only acknowledge where we are and pay lip service to the issue, but to put systemic practices into place that prove to better serve youth.

To quote Jeff Duncan-Andrade, founder of Roses in Concrete School in Oakland, CA, “Stop trying to fix our young people. Our young people are not broken. Our systems are broken.”

 

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