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?