Lifelong learner. It is one of the ways I describe myself. In high school, I was what would be described as a “good student.” I excelled in some classes while in others I earned average grades. It’s not that I didn’t try, but that I had trouble understanding mathematical and scientific concepts.
I can’t remember a time when I thought of myself as “good at math.” I took all the advanced math courses I was expected to take in order to “be prepared for college.” Mathematical theories and formulas were my stumbling blocks.
Today while reading Carolyn Foote’s post “Creating an Ensemble” I was reminded of those mathematical stumbling blocks. I stumbled many a time over an algebraic equation, or God help me, a WORD PROBLEM. Yet I continued to take classes like Calculus and Trigonometry. Why? Because my friends and teacher wouldn’t let me fall flat on my face. They worked with me to help me grasp some minute understanding that would help me through each unit.
In her post, Carolyn reflects on a team building exercise:
At our staff retreat last August, we stumbled through an outdoor team-building exercise where a group of us had to balance on a log, and reorganize the order we were lined up in. But we could only communicate through making animal sounds or gesturing like the animal. But even though not all of us knew one another well–we all were committed to helping ALL of us stay on the log and winning the challenge.
Do our classrooms function this way? Do all the students involved help all of their peers ’stay on the log’? Everyone stumbles from time to time–but what more power is there in a classroom if students know that everyone there would be trying to help them get back on track?
My math teacher for my final two years of high school was a master at creating community. It was that community that took my stumbling blocks and built upon them. The feeling of belonging to a team is a powerful force.
How can we create that sense of community in our classrooms? How do we convince our students that each of them is a valued contributor to our overall goal?
Not easy questions to answer. But questions that must be asked.
As a school library media specialist, I ask one more question: How can technology be used to build community? Here is one school’s answer:
Loud and Clear: Students Find Their Voices Through Multimedia
Article and video on the success that the San Fernando Education Technology Team has experienced building a sense of community at San Fernando High School north of Los Angeles.