a close up view of a lit sparkler shooting sparks in the darkness

Creating a Joyfully Authentic Community

What’s New? As we near the end of the semester our community of writers is reaping the benefits in so many ways. As writers they feel supported and challenged by their readers’ feedback. Every week we learn from each other as we write and share together. I know this because every round of reflection we do (and sometimes spontaneously in conversation) students will describe the many reasons they are thankful for our community of writers. I know it warms my teacher heart every time I visit our class logbooks or read inquiry draft feedback. When we discuss AI in our classes, my students also note this community is one of the things holding them back from using AI for their course work. They don’t want to disappoint the community. AI prevention is not why I focus on creating a joyfully authentic community of writers, but it is a nice side benefit.

Original: This week is the first week of classes and I cannot wait to get back in the classroom to write and share with my students, but in preparation for that joy I have spent a lot of time thinking about my priorities for this semester. As an avowed writing evangelist, I have made it clear that the writer is the focus and goal of all my classes, but this blog post is not about teaching writing. This blog post is about helping all teachers from first year to last, from kindergarten to graduate school, create a joyful authentic community that will help everyone survive and thrive. We are all carrying the weight and trauma of an endemic pandemic, broken education system, and fractured society into this school year and that means taking care of all the humans involved requires care and attention.

Community Rituals

I have shared often and widely that my number one piece of teaching advice is to build community. Building community within your classroom solves so many teaching challenges and creates a human(e?) support system that benefits all. Communication and collaboration are terrific community builders as well as conductors of learning and human development. We must also build communities beyond our classroom, but for this post I want to focus on the class community. While I like to build community through a writing studio approach, I know that will not work for everyone. I can guarantee that creating meaningful and purposeful class rituals can create community in any class. I have witnessed the power of class rituals from kindergarten to graduate school. Sometimes, especially in K-12, you can harness the power of the class ritual to support other community relationships (such as sharing reflections with other stakeholders). What rituals can you (or do you) use to open and/or close your class meetings and support your class community? Building class community and developing community rituals is the most important investment you can make in your students’ learning journey.

Sparking Joy

Never has it been more important to embrace the principles of Marie Kondo when it comes to planning your lessons, weeks, units, and semesters. We need to declutter and focus only on the essentials. We need to do more with less. I have long been a fan of the twofer, but now every class activity must serve multiple purposes because everyone is exhausted and stressed by the exponential impact of the endemic pandemic, our broken education system, and fractured social structure. No one has the capacity we need to work at full throttle through the fall semester. I am always mindful of the need to begin, work, and land softly – for my students and myself – and that means asking the famous Kondo question: does this spark joy? Declutter the work and center joy whenever possible to help you and your students survive and thrive.

Authentic Journeys

I admit not every activity in my class sparks joy, but every class activity is authentic and more spark joy than drudgery. In fact, I work very hard to avoid drudgery. Some of our work is hard and challenging, but I have found that creating authentic writing experiences for my students brings joy almost every class meeting and tremendous satisfaction with the journey to create our final deliverables. My secret weapon is project-based learning. Not all our work sparks joy, but it should spark passion and that is enough to carry us through an authentic learning journey. I always ask my students to reflect on whether or not the journey was worth taking, but the first person I ask is myself.

My goal is to design a class that takes my students on a learning journey as humans, writers, and critical thinkers and my bottom line is for us all to survive that journey. I know that creating a joyfully authentic community is my best tool to make that happen.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Author: Deanna Mascle
#TeachingWriting and leading #NWP site @ Morehead State (KY): Passionate about #AuthenticWriting, #DeeperLearning, #PBL, #Ungrading, and #HyperDocs.

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