The Value of Community in Education
Over the past year or so, I have recalled the many gifts that my father left me. Nothing material, but the immaterial gifts that matter so much more and that last forever. A gift that my father passed on to me that was integral to his life, is the gift of building community. Throughout his adult life, my father served his community to open avenues of discussion and conversation and, ultimately, to provide ways for people to work together to improve the community for all. My father’s willingness to serve taught me the importance of building community, which is at the center of your child’s education at Journeys School and is fundamental to high school journeys.
All faculty members at Journeys School strive to build community among themselves and, most importantly, among themselves and the student body. It is through building community that we can accomplish so much as we learn together. In his book Building Community in Schools, Thomas Sergiovanni says that schooling is first and foremost about relationships between and among students and teachers, and that community building must be the basis for school efforts that seek to improve teaching and learning. Sergiovanni argues that all else will come more naturally when authentic communities flourish. We adhere to Sergiovanni’s beliefs, so every fall as we gather again in school, we plan the fall journey with community building at the center of our journey preparation. In addition to the academic components and leadership opportunities that are a part of every journey, the fall journeys allow us to begin to reacquaint with one another, to become friends, to learn to trust one another, and to begin collaborating so that we can learn from one another.
This fall we traveled to Yellowstone National Park. Community building was intentionally scheduled, yet, of course, as with many things in life, outcomes exceeded expectations when students genuinely took interest in what peers were doing, what peers were teaching when delivering lessons, and coming together to pitch tents, cook meals, and have fun during free times. We approached community building through journal writing, sharing journal work, and evening discussions. Most of the journal prompts and discussion questions stemmed from the three essential questions that have to do with origins and that we are using this year in all courses in the high school: What have we been? What are we now? What are we to become? Through writing answers to these questions and having conversations and discussions we begin to see what we have in common. We learn that it is safe in a school community where we trust one another. We know when it is time to lend a hand and time to let others take the lead or work individually. In sum, we learn to learn together.
We do things differently at Journeys School. We collaborate, and we communicate well. We study challenging material, and sometimes we struggle, while at other times we find unimaginable success. We build community. It is a beautiful gift, one that we can all benefit from and pass on to the next year’s high school students and to the many that will come after us here. Building community is a gift passed on to me by my father that has forever changed my life. I hope the gift we pass on to students will enrich their lives as well.
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