How Not to Build Community

I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, just this general sense of unease, of discomfort, lingering in my classroom.  I just returned, or really just started, the school year after my maternity leave and while I was gone I triumphantly planned just how I would build community.  I was going to get us all to like each other so fast, after all, I am pro at this by now.  Except, I didn’t, and I don’t know if I have anyone but me to blame.  Sure, I could blame the pace of school, after all, I didn’t get a first week with these kids.  I could blame the expectations of the students, the high hopes we all have for how great 5th grade will be, but that’s not it.  I think it was my own pace, my own need to push a sense of belonging on these kids and totally forgetting to praise them along the way.  Totally forgetting to slow down and get to know them, thinking I knew them already.

I have been quick to point out what we need to work on, flaws within our system.  I have been quick to come down, to set expectations, to point out those things we need to get rid of, get better at, get on top of.  I have not been quick to point out the great.  Those moments where these kids blow me away with their answers.  Those moments where they rally around each other, around me, around us, even though no one asked them to.  Those moments have slipped by unnoticed.

So if you walk past my room, sure, we are productive.  We are getting things done, but we are not a community just yet.  Tomorrow, I will slow down, I will notice, I will point out the good.  I will laugh a little more at our imperfections and remind my hurried mind that community was not built in a day, a week, or even a month.  That community was built slowly so that it is strong when we need to stick together.  I owe it those kids to start again.

One thought on “How Not to Build Community

  1. After around 15 weeks in class, I too have forgotten to be as joyfully encouraging as I was early in the year. In effect I am where you are right now. At some point the class (and I) lost focus. The work had become routine and the attitudes have been degrading. Today I recommitted to spending more time 'being there' and spending more deliberated time encouraging and pushing.

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