Communities In The Classroom

This week’s readings included Maria Sapon-Shevin’s Building a Safe Learning Community and M. Green’s Imagination, Community and the School. The articles were worthwhile reading and raised valid points for discussion, and were maybe slightly brighter readings that were have been accustomed to thus far in our coursework this quarter.
In Maria Sapon-Shevin’s Building a Safe Learning Community, the focus of the article is obviously about building a safe environment in the classroom in which every student can feel that they are part of the learning community regardless of any possible differences that they may have from others. This seems like a small synopsis for an article with so much to say, and does not do it justice.
Many great points were made. First off, the need for students to feel that their classroom is a safe environment where they are able to express their feelings and be allowed to speak with respect to others is paramount. In a situation like this, a student is made to feel as though they are valued as a member of the community and that they matter, that they are valued. The emphasis of equality and importance of all members of the community is stressed, and is put into action by finding ways in which each student is able to be seen as an asset to the community in some way by exploiting some talent or special thing that that person has as part of their persona. By finding their special trait or talent, each person in the classroom can be made to feel as though they have something to contribute to the community, and that they are special in some way, shape or form. We all like to feel like we’re special in some way, and this helps to build the sense that the community is made up of special people.
But, building a community is not an easy process by any stretch. Building a community is not something that can be done in the first day of class, in the first couple of hours, and then called complete. It must be nurtured and built over time, and constantly monitored for health once it is established for any signs that there are problems. If the community is a healthy one, then the problems should be addressed and discussed as a community to resolve the issue. If it is not quite a healthy one yet, then the same rules apply, but there are also more rules that need to be understood and agreed upon by all that wish the community to succeed. I like the suggestion that was given that said that everyone agrees that they will not hold side conversations but will address problems with those that they have the problems with firsthand, as I believe that it will allow resolution to many issues that could decay parts of a community if left to their own devices.
I liked the article that spoke of instanced where the students would act on their own accord to let others know that people that were ability challenged were part of the community with their words. By creating communities with bonds that tie students together without any stigmas, students can to know others that they may not have known before the community was formed. Any time that you can get to know another person that can enrich your life through their experiences and viewpoints, it’s a worthwhile thing. In addition, the inclusion of everyone does nothing but good things for people’s self-confidence and that can’t be bad.
In building a classroom community, there are obviously many strategies that can be employed. In finding the right way to build a community in my classroom, I will need to consult other educators that have created that community in their classrooms, and others (maybe in our cohort) to see what good ideas come forth. I’m sure there’s other resources out there that we can find, possibly books by good coaches would have some relevance.
The next article, Imagination, Community and the School, predominantly deals with the subject of imagination and the need for a strong imagination in the educational system. The article makes good points about at-risk kids not being thought of in the sense of imagination, but the focus with them is upon new programs that seem to lack imagination. It also speaks of the need for imagination in educators, and that with imagination we can build better communities.
Her point is that a community must be something that people can get together and imagine what the possibilities are for the group, and how the group can get there. “It has to be achieved by persons offered the space in which to discover what they recognize together and appreciate in common…it ought to be a space infused by the kind of imaginative awareness that enables those involved to imagine alternative possibilities for their own becoming and their group’s becoming.”
Communities are paramount in providing a place where kids can feel like they are allowed to flourish and learn. As a future educator, it will be my responsibility to find a way to create a thriving community in my classroom. That’s that kind of class that I’d like to be a part of.

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One thought on “Communities In The Classroom

  1. I like the new template!

    All well stated, and yes, these are modestly brighter readings, and it’s important to use to understand these readings not just as tips to make kids happier in classrooms, but as ways to begin thinking of classroom practices as part of ways to include kids that have been historically marginalized in schools, to think of our purposes as being not just about academic, but also to enable kids whose communities have few reasons to sustain hope to imagine different futures, to find ways to foster understanding across very different groups of people.

    Communities aren’t an end in themselves… they’re very much another dimension of our conversation about some of the darker things we’ve also been talking about!

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