As we embark on a new school year, I'd like to reflect on Edgework – a principle that guides our students and faculty in their educational journeys – and its role in helping students grow academically and emotionally. Edgework means having one foot grounded in current knowledge or skill while the other foot enters more ambiguous, less comfortable territory.
These edges push our skills and thinking and provide opportunities for us to experience profound growth. At STS, we believe that Edgework can only happen when students simultaneously feel the demand of high expectations coupled with a supportive learning environment.
Edgework & 21st Century Learning
As our students prepare for an increasingly uncertain world where big issues have a myriad of possible solutions, helping students take risks and look for multiple answers to a problem is integral to their success in academics and in life.
As Albert Einstein said, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." Of course, Einstein is being humble, but his perseverance in encountering edges enabled him to answer some of mankind's greatest questions.
At STS, we encourage our students to explore real-world, open-ended problems – and to stay with those problems until a resolution is found. Being comfortable with ambiguity, especially when there's not just one right answer, challenges binary assumptions and inspires our students to be intellectually curious.
For example, students participate in collaborative projects where they form a multifaceted approach to a task, whether it's analyzing which local non-profit is appropriate for a certain community problem or investigating how velocity operates in the real world. In these learning experiences, students encourage each other to do their own Edgework by asking questions, evaluating arguments and analyzing each other's and the group's success.
We also encourage our teachers to talk transparently about their own Edgework – what professional challenges do they encounter and how do they work to find solutions? Through our partnership with Microsoft, students also provide feedback on products, giving them the opportunity to see how real-world professionals engage in Edgework. By modeling Edgework for students, we help them to see how it applies in the real world.
Intentionality & Edgework
From the very first day of school, we aim to instill the value of Edgework in our students. Through personalized learning, skilled educators identify each student's edge and push them just beyond it.
Take reading, for example. A child needs to understand about 90 - 95 percent of words in a book in order to comprehend it. Understanding a majority of the words allows the child to grasp the main ideas and infer the meaning of the unfamiliar words. This is the right "edge" – and each student's "edge" is different.
If a student is given a book and only understands 80 percent of the words, he/she may feel too deflated to attempt to deduce meaning. Conversely, if a student is given a book with only known vocabulary, he/she misses out on an opportunity to encounter and learn new words.
It takes a talented and thoughtful faculty to help students identify their own edges – teachers really are the magic ingredient. But Edgework becomes the most powerful when students do it on their own.
Imagine a child independently choosing a book that's just outside her comfort zone. The child is aware of her skill level and pushes herself beyond it. That's where we want all our students to be. We know students have internalized the principles of Edgework when they seek out challenges and are willing to make mistakes in order to grow.
Edgework & Character Development
The greatest Edgework we engage in will always be about character. At STS, our educational journey addresses the holistic needs of children, academically and socially, and we encourage Edgework at every stage.
When students test boundaries, experience consequences and reflect on their choices, they are actively preparing to make better choices in the future. Students engaged in Edgework push each other to make more responsible choices.
We also encourage this reflection through peer mediation groups. Students role-play and discuss issues in their own lives, challenging each other to make more positive choices. By encouraging social-emotional Edgework at a young age, we help cultivate a skill set for students to make better decisions and build meaningful relationships in high school and beyond. Through Edgework, students encourage each other to embody STS's core virtues: gratitude, responsibility, respect, courage, integrity, tolerance, compassion, perseverance, and generosity.
Edgework Outside of the Classroom
At STS, we know that our values and skills resonate more with our students when they are reinforced at home. As parents and educators, we naturally want to smooth the edges for children, to create a path with fewer obstacles.
But it's the edges where our children engage in the most meaningful learning. Consider Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go! As the main character navigates "bang-ups and hang-ups," he learns which path to take. In the end it reads, "Kid, you'll move mountains!" Without the peaks and valleys, he wouldn't develop the perseverance needed to tackle life's inevitable diversions.
Partnering with parents to help STS's children move mountains is integral to our school's mission. We are eager to begin this school year and engage in meaningful Edgework with both our students and our faculty – and to see this Edgework reinforced in all aspects of a child's life.