Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why Community Building Matters in Education

Why would community building matter for education? This answer is two-fold because the community that the educator is part of should be just as valuable and rich as the one the students are part of in school.  An emotionally safe environment that allows intellectual risk taking can lead to amazing knowledge construction and discovery, but these environments must be created and nurtured as communities.
The experiences at Islandwood have taught me a lot about the power held in the community.  It came almost as an epiphany this season as I watched Christmas movies, and I realized that Scrooge and the Grinch lacked empathy, community, sense of place, personal connections, and morals.  As they stayed in isolation, sure of their superiority compared to the interconnected people around them, they drifted further away from society and deeper into egocentrism and misery.  It was only after they connected with others that they found happiness, and for education that’s big news since the brain is primed for learning when it is happy, safe, and has purpose. 

I used to think that communities organically arose from student interaction, but I did not credit the immense intentionality behind collaborative and social-emotional learning until Islandwood gave me students in the field.  Suddenly I realized that there were only four days to get a team to accomplish goals that required a cooperative cohesiveness. 

The community agreement, the team building, and the socialization all gave the instruction meaning and personal connection.  There were also the intangible lessons that could not be explicitly taught like empathy, moral development, social skills, democracy, and societal roles.  These skills all have enduring understanding applicable to any area of life or subject in school.

Not only do field instructors see the evolution of community within their students in the short span of a week, we live it as graduate students.  We see Bandura’s, Piaget’s, and Vygotsky’s theories about cooperative and collaborative socialization among peers come to life as we create our own community agreement, have community check-in, debate in class, bounce ideas off one another, discuss findings, and work together. 

Without the community, we would not be as strong of educators and our students would not achieve their highest potential.  


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