Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about community this week. It likely has a lot to do with the elluminate session with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach Tuesday evening. 

Several days ago, one of the families in our community had a fire in their home.  At this point, I’m unsure of the extent of the damage, but over the past couple of days, our community has rallied around this family to address their immediate needs.  I live in a village of less than 1,000 people, so when something like this happens, everyone is affected, and everyone pitches in to help.  This is community at its best.

Earlier in the week, I served supper at a local soup kitchen.  Here too is community. But it’s community of a different sort.  The patrons of this community come, not just for a meal, but to belong. The needs that are met are emotional, a place of understanding and acceptance. A place where dignity is bestowed upon one another. 

Both of theses communities are tangible, easily experienced.  But virtual community, to me, at this point, seems  different from this. It’s ubiquitous but also, at times,  ethereal.

One of the reasons that I’ve been thinking about community so much this week is because I long for something different. The truth is I’m tired of being North American, a statement that in itself likely shows arrogance and ignorance, since I know that most of the privileges that come with being North American, I would be loath to give up.

Mostly, what I’m tired of is the consumerist, individualistic mindset our society has.  I’m tired of being inundated with media that purports sex, beauty, and an almost endless supply of useless consumer goods as what will save us or make us happy.  I’m tired of a school system that seems morbidly dysfunctional, and continuously under-fire, and a society that is capable of putting people on the moon, but seems to have forgotten how to raise its children.

This week I’ve experienced a paradigm shift in regards to on-line community.  I did not realize the depth and breadth of community available via social media.  To be honest, I loathed Twitter, seeing it only as the vehicle for Paris Hilton to reveal her newest nail polish colour, or for Lindsay Lohan to admit failure of her latest drug test.  Although I still don’t entirely “get” the value of Twitter, I’m beginning to see possibilities.

Social media allows for the possibility of branching out and hearing ideas different from mine,  learning, and likely thriving, because of this diversity.  I long for a professional community that I can learn from, and contribute to, like iron sharpens iron.  I want to hear how teachers and schools across the world are doing things differently than I am. I have no illusions that my way is the best way or the right way.

I love this quote by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, “Some of these virtual networks develop into powerful learning communities that connect the ideas of educators from around the world as they explore together and push traditional education boundaries”  This is the place where I’m at.  I’m tired of being seen as the all-knowing guru in my classroom, and desire to be a co-learner with my students. 

I want to create a classroom that matters to me and my students, where both of us can learn and grow. I’m wondering what will happen if I, as a teacher, have a network that challenges my ideas, and in turn show my students how to create networks that will challenge their ideas? What if school becomes real life?

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About shelleywright

I love education & learning, which likely explains why I'm a teacher. My areas are ELA, Sr. sciences, and technology. My classroom is best described as a student-centred, tech embedded pbl/inquiry learning environment. I am currently a PhD student in the area of Curriculum and Instruction. My focus is play-based learning in high school, and it's impact on brain development.
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6 Responses to Community

  1. Hello Shelley!

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I would have to say for me community was one of my biggest issues in teaching.

    For the last 8 years of my career, I taught in a K-12 school. In this school, the population was like a family; most of the students had siblings, cousins, and in-laws in this milieu. Most of them were being raised on a farm and were hugely proud to be farmers. Many were of a common European ancestry. All of these factors made the school a wonderful place in which to work even though I was not a resident of the school’s community. I loved my school.

    Where community broke down for me was on a professional level. I was the only “computer teacher” in the school. When I first arrived, the “old guard” teachers used the computers for word processing and game playing. Teaching “computers” to grades 7 to 12 in some form or another was especially frustrating as the skills I taught, for example using spreadsheets, weren’t used in any of their other classes. Thank heavens for divisional “computer and technology” committees and the community they provided.

    Eventually a “newer guard” is moving in and using the technology for things other than word processing and game playing. Old folks like me have retired and created spaces for newer, more energetic, and enlightened teachers to take our places.

    In all my years of teaching I found community on a professional level was scarce at best. Grad school is a wonderful way to step back and reflect on one’s practice while cultivating a community of like-minded professional learners. Very little time is otherwise provided in the professional culture for teachers to learn from each other especially if there is no one else in your school that teaches the same “stuff” as you do. I generally found that most teachers are “work beside” rather than “work with” types who don’t have the time, the training, and most importantly, the inclination to work cooperatively with other teachers to create a more vibrant learning culture in their schools.

  2. I love your post. I can so much relate to it.
    Let me share a story.
    My first and more impressive experience in an online community was my participation as a member of the webheads in action: an international community of EFL teachers who connect online to share experiences, collaborate, help others. I have never experienced so much generosity as in there. Bonds are formed, trust grows out of the interactions we establish and the sense of belonging emerges as a natural symptom of our participation in that extended family. Some of them I have been fortunate to meet online, but others I haven’t. One of the teachers I created very strong bonds with lives in Sudan. We are learning buddies and we help each other, even sometimes just providing moral support over the web. We are there for each other. That’s community.
    The trick is to find people we can relate to and with whom we can establish generous interrelationships. There is nothing like having someone whom we can exchange ideas with. That’s community. Not everyone approaches online participation the same way, but when we look we find a community that suits our philosophy of learning and teaching and that can only be powerful. When that happens, when you find a group of people you feel comfortable to engage with then that is when you have found your community! ;-)

  3. Being a teacher who has taught at a Hutterite Colony school and am currently in a k-12 school being part of a professional community has not been easy. It wasn’t until I was able to use social media, especially Twiiter, that I have felt “connected”.

    The amazing power of Twitter, is that you have a chance to create your own network. Twitter really only works when you purposely choose to follow people.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Community | ShelleyWright's Blog -- Topsy.com

  5. Bill Gaskins says:

    I really enjoyed this powerful post. Community is important! I want to work in a learning culture- where learning is a product and a customer service. But we begin small. I have followed some great gurus through printed text but the conversation did not extend into the culture where I taught. Social media and networks has extended that community that I have long desired. But learning has to be the heart of this community.

    Bill

  6. I think your question about life becoming school or school becoming life is an inteesting and important one.

    I think “school” becomes something much more effective when it is really “life” for our students. Authentic learning experiences and authentic connections with people are a key part of that.

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