First Day Back: Building Community

Today was our first day back at school! Students come next week, but we began our week of pre-service days. We had a full day of professional development, catching up with news and changes, continuing initiatives, tech training, department meetings, etc.

As I looked around the room in our closing community circle, it struck me how excited I am to start my third year of teaching at my school. It’s been an interesting two years, and even in a short time, there have been a lot changes in the school and for me personally. This year, however, I am more sure than ever before that I’m in the right place, with a group of dedicated people, and I can’t wait to get started.

It also struck me how even though I knew these were great people, and I’ve been working with them for two years, it’s taken me this long to really feel it, to feel a part of things, and to feel empowered to speak my mind, share ideas, that we’re all working toward a common goal.

This by no means is a comment on our climate, but more a testament to the time and work it takes to build relationships. They don’t happen overnight. 

If we as adults feel it, I wonder how kids experience this process. This must be how kids feel as they go through school. The first year is all about getting your feet on the ground, learning the culture, making friends and figuring out how to survive. The second year is about going beyond survival and finding your place and your unique voice within a community. If things keep going well, and your talents are nurtured, then it’s time to fully begin experiencing the influence you have on others, to be in a place where true collaboration is possible because the trust you’ve built allows you to open up and take risks.

Especially after my two years at my school and my recent reflection on my Tribes training, attention on community, building relationships and trust is no longer something important because I heard it in my teacher prep program, but it’s important because it truly does change things. It changes your sense of belonging, the sense of power you have to influence your environment, the degree to which you feel like your efforts really matter to yourself and others. 

Knowing how important developing a sense of community has been for me as a teacher, I’m ready to move beyond thinking about building community in my classroom as an activity or a system, but rather as an attitude, and as a climate.

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