Ecologically, the edge is the most diverse space in the habitat. As educators, let's explore the edges in classroom environments and the ways in which students can benefit when we (as teachers) push beyond the constraints of traditional schooling and embrace the vast diversity that exists in the spaces just over the edge. How can we take bold steps to shift systems and ensure all stakeholders have a seat at the table?
As educators striving to teach at the edge, we often interrogate our personal practice within the walls of our classroom, asking ourselves: How can we shift our instruction to support student learning? As educational leaders striving to support educators to teach at the edge, the question becomes: How can we shift the system and the relationships that exist within it to improve education and support the rights of all stakeholders? Our collective research aims to address both of these questions to support both instructors and organizational leaders to teach and lead at the edge.
Through the lenses of student voice, identity formation, collaborative work practices, and positive student-teacher relationships (Schwartz, 2019), our individual research paths have addressed the edge effects that exist in K-16 education. Often the artificial edges we create prevent us from effectively teaching our students.
Failing to see students as leaders and potential collaborators in the co-construction of their educational experiences inhibits collaboration through youth-adult partnerships (e.g., Calvert, 2004; Mitra, Lewis, & Sanders, 2013; Silva, 2002).
There is a socially constructed edge that separates youth with substance use disorders from any other person who does not understand the experience or has a stigmatized view of the experience that prevents students from experiencing a sense of belonging in their school communities (Treiber, 2019).
Our discomfort surrounding difficult conversations about race, equity, and global cultural differences (DiAngelo, 2018) make us feel like we are precariously perched at the edge of something scary, and so we often move away from that edge, subsequently limiting the development of our global competence and failing to effectively support our students in the process (Tichnor-Wagnor, 2019).
Throughout our exploration of edges, we consider how we as educators can strive to learn at the edge, embracing discomfort as an opportunity to stretch and grow.
Lindsay has helped teachers learn about the social, emotional, and academic benefits of amplifying student voice in schools. She developed a validated instrument with which schools can measure student perceptions of leadership opportunities in classrooms, in collaborative work with school stakeholders, and in the school’s decision-making process (Lyons, 2018).
Danielle's research has helped educators develop a better understanding of a subgroup of marginalized students, students with substance use disorders. She examines student identity formation through an intersectional lens and explores the implications of this process paired with students’ desire to feel belonging for educational practice (Treiber, 2019).
Kristina's work has been in exploring relational practice as a conduit to global competence. She helps teachers recognize globally competent classrooms promote equitable learning environments in which students learn how to participate and advocate in their own communities, progress and grow as individuals, and practice sustainable habits of action that honor and respect people and communities around the world.
Lejla's work on adaptability, collaborative work practices, and structural/design aspects of organizations to foster agency have powerful implications for educators in brick and mortar schools as well as virtual school settings that are becoming increasingly popular. (Bilal Maley, forthcoming).
Throughout our exploration of how to teach on the edge, we continue to seek equitable, sustainable, and dignified ways to honor the voices, histories, identities, and cultures of all stakeholders as we support student leadership, provide opportunities for belonging, encourage global competence, and foster agency in the classroom.
We learn from hearing the stories of fellow educators. So tell us:
What does the edge look like in your learning community? How do you move towards the edge?