As I near the end of my semester and begin the process of wrapping up and saying farewell to my students, I am always struck by how close we have become. This bond is truly amazing when you think about the fact that we are just a group of random strangers brought together by a machine. It is even more impressive when you consider that most of our community were reluctant members at best.
I would love to take all the credit for creating these wonderful communities, but I cannot. Yes, I introduced the idea and built the support system, but ultimately it is only possible through the collaborative work of the entire community. No single person, not even the most powerful and charismatic teacher, can force a community into reality, because community is something that transcends the teacher. Community is sharing and support that happens when the teacher steps away. Community is feeling responsible for your classmates and stepping up when they struggle. Community is learning from everyone in the room.
I have written a lot about community, because it is such an important part of the work that happens in my classes. Creating community takes time and requires regular weeding and watering. Community building also takes a lot of planning ahead of time and now is the perfect time to think about how you can create your own awesome classroom community.
Before you can become a community, you need to get to know each other and that is why I and so many other community-conscious teachers begin our year starting off write. There are many methods you can use to break the ice and begin the work of the class at the same time.
Sarah Wessling offers “14 Ways to Cultivate Classroom Chemistry” and explains her own reasons for deliberately planning, creating, and sustaining a classroom community. She notes: “There’s no doubt that the membership, the trust, the sense of self that comes from being part of a classroom community keeps kids in school and keeps them engaged.”
I thought it was interesting how many of Kelly Booth’s “10 Quick and Easy Ways to Develop a Strong Classroom Community” I use in my own classroom (at the college level compared to her elementary classroom) from Me Museums (always using Mem Fox as inspiration) to badges (rather than marbles and buckets).
I love the way Anna Gratz Cockerille of Two Writing Teachers shares Deb Frazier’s process for building a community of writers as well as why a writing community is so important: “Because the students value their writing community, they also feel accepted and free to try new ideas, take risks, and push themselves to be their personal best. They feel encouraged internally and externally.”
Do you believe community is important to learning and especially to writing? How do you support community in your classroom?
Artwork by Ralph Paglia on Flickr