When I was first reading about the Education Scholars program back in February, it was presented as an extremely immersive and comprehensive experience that allowed participants to engage in various levels of the educational ecosystem while also living and learning together. The living experience was designed to promote constant reflection while we spent time together in Mosaic Village, an apartment complex owned by Johnson C. Smith University, and situated in the West End neighborhood of Charlotte. Throughout the description, there was a special emphasis on our living location in Charlotte rather than Davidson. Why has it been so important to be immersed in the community in which we are working?
I was personally surprised when I learned that both students in Davidson and the West End of Charlotte are part of the same Charlotte-Mecklenburg public school system. On the surface level, the physical characteristic of the neighborhood that Mosaic Village is situated in differs from the appearance of Davidson. The West End is urban; there are tall buildings, few trees, easily accessible public transportation, and relatively bustling uptown Charlotte is just a short walk down West Trade Street. Past these superficial observations, there are also bigger differences in the educational experiences of residents.
If I were an incoming kindergartener living in Davidson, I would be starting out my educational career at Davidson Elementary School, whereas in the West End I would be entering Bruns Academy. Although they are in the same school district, Davidson Elementary and Bruns Academy students reflect varying demographics and experience different educational outcomes. (Please see infographic for specifics).
Why aren’t we serving all of our students equitably? How can we serve all of our students? We are responsible for all the children in our community, which extends far beyond what is immediately visible to us. This summer, multiple education experts have spoken to us about the importance of having the public conceptualize the national (or at least district) K-12 student body as a communal responsibility that we can all benefit from and serve.
As I reenter the Davidson bubble in just a few short weeks, I hope I can remember that our community is so much bigger than our campus, or even our town. Our community extends to Charlotte and beyond, despite the differences and distances that may exist along the 20 minute drive. When we can see that disservice to one part of our system hinders us all, we can realize that our whole being would improve dramatically by uplifting and supporting every student. In a classroom, you listen to teachers so that you can learn things you don’t know. Why don’t we apply the same principle to our community support of school systems? Our vision may initially be obscured or limited, but the valuable narratives and lived experiences of all of our educational actors (students, teachers, administrators and beyond) can lend clarity.