When it comes to Building Community, most teachers get it all wrong. Why? Because they were led to believe that it is simply something you do the first two weeks of the year. You know… name games, establishing initial procedures/routines and engaging in community building activities. Yes, those are important first steps, but they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to building a TRUE effective learning community.
Building Community is the foundation of teaching and it is a yearlong process. It involves reflecting on your teacher mindset, building authentic relationships and fostering a culture and climate that enhances and supports students.
Building Community is the number one thing you can do to ensure student growth.
Yes, the NUMBER ONE thing! Let me explain…
Have you ever had a class that just seemed like they were never going to get along?
Did you ever have students that constantly interrupted your instruction or other students while they were trying to learn?
Have you ever found yourself constantly repeating directions or expectations?
Have you ever had students that never participated, were withdrawn and unmotivated?
Have your students ever made unkind comments “I don’t want to work with him/her!” or refused to include certain students?
I think at some point we all have.
And to be kind of in your face about it, all these actions are sending a very clear message….
WE DON’T FEEL LIKE A COMMUNITY.
It’s like the parable of the house built on sand vs. the house built on rock. There is a BIG difference in what happens to those two houses when a storm comes. When the wind comes and waves crash, things get tough and don’t go as planned…one house falls apart, and the other stands firm. What’s the difference between the two houses?
Think about it for a second… If you only focus on community for the first two weeks of school and then move on, you haven’t established a sustainable community. If your classroom isn’t built upon an unshakable foundation of community, then when things get rough or a new student arrives, your classroom will more than likely crumble and fall apart.
I’ve been there. I have had the class, “the house” that fell apart when things got hard.
I had the misconception, like so many others that community was something you did the first two weeks of school. After my first year of teaching, where it felt like everything was falling apart around me, I knew I was missing something.
So, I set out on a journey to discover how to build community, but not just your average, run of the mill community. I wanted to give my kids MORE. I wanted to build the kind of classroom community where when things got tough, we would withstand the storm, and not just survive, but THRIVE.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I immersed myself in research and every professional development I could get my hands on. I observed teachers that I admired, and I asked questions. Here is the one of the BIG things I discovered…. You can build relationships and not have management, you can incorporate cooperative learning and not have cooperation, you can teach procedures/routines and then not monitor them, you can demand respect and only get compliance. I discovered that Community is not a set of steps we take the first few weeks of school. It is a series of well thought out practices we incorporate, intentionally and on a consistent basis, that when used in concert with each other builds community.
And you know what? Bit by bit, my community grew. And before long I had Unshakable, storm-weathering classroom community, where all my students were making massive growth!
And guess what? People couldn’t help but notice!
They began coming to ME because they wanted to have a foundation of an Unshakable Community too!
I started sharing with others what I discovered on my journey, and before long, they started to see improvements in their classrooms too!
As a school Principal I encouraged my teachers to make Building Community their #1 focus. Yes, curriculum is important and there is a ton to go through in a single school year, BUT I know the MASSIVE impact that an effective community has on achievement.
How do I know this? Because it worked! With the students I taught, with my colleagues’ students AND for my school. Yes, my school! Building an effective community reduced our discipline issues by 75% in just the first two years and our academic achievement grew from underperforming (F) to performing plus (one point from an A).
Because of my success in building unshakeable communities I knew that what I discovered was meant to reach more teachers. Teachers JUST LIKE YOU…who are READY to build a firm foundation for an Unshakable Community.
So, if you haven’t already, sign up for the ETP Blog. Here I will be sharing with you weekly inspiration, tips, tools and strategies for building and sustaining strong effective classroom communities. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite books, pod cast and giving you advance notice of my upcoming webinars and on-line challenges.
Let’s do this!! Let’s build community!!
With Grit and Gumption,