Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Importance of Community

This year, I am at a new school, and I am frequently asked how things are going. The short answer to that question is, "They're going well." The long answer is "They're going well, but I'm learning how important community is when teaching children."

That last statement is something I've known to be true for a long time, but I've taken the learning community where I've been for the last thirteen years for granted. I knew the staff at my old school, students were familiar with me as they progressed through the grades, and we had many parents who spent countless volunteer hours at school, so I knew the parent community as well.

I've learned to be humble this year. For this new community, I am an unknown factor. Any celebrations with children I may have had in the past are literally that... in the past. Here at my new school, I haven't yet earned credibility with parents and students. That's the part that keeps me humble, and makes me start each and every day with the hope that "magic" will happen in our class -- we will work on our community, and because of that, our learning will start to grow exponentially. Each day is a new day where the possibilities are endless, and our community of learners just has to find our way to those possibilities.

Today, I had a great community-building experience with my students. I took every single fiction book off our bookshelves and scattered them into 7 piles throughout the room. I told the students that a "tornado" had blown certain books off the shelves, and we needed to find a way to organize the books in a way that would help them locate the books they needed when they wanted them. Even with the noise level, the engagement of the students working as a group was amazing, building a community centered around books. We talked about genres, authors, and series. What more could a teacher of reading ask?!!

I look forward to many more community building activities just like this one. Building community around who we are as readers and writers, and having the children be part of the way we organize how we do things as a group. Activities like the "tornado" today, and all the rituals and routines that come with reading workshop and writing workshop -- these are the community issues I hold near and dear to my heart This is how my kids will get to know me, and understand my belief system about literacy.

So, in a final answer to the question of how's it going" : I love this new and exciting challenge, and I look forward to building our community together each day.


  1. I am so glad it well and so glad you are part of the GRE community. We are blessed.

  2. I loved the tornado. It is interesting things that get us talking. I could just see your class in action as you described it. I love when I get to see students working together like that. I look forward to hearing more.

    Growth and change are not always fun but the end result is wonderful. It is what we are asking our students to do every day. It seems when I am experiencing it too it helps to put what we ask them to do in perspective.

  3. What a brave woman to let that tornado happen year after year. I believe you when you tell about how worth it it is, but I'm STILL not willing to go there...