The importance of community

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about the importance of belonging to and having the support of a community. Charli is talking about the supportive rural community where she lives and describes the way everyone rallies around to help in times of need. No asking is required. Everyone responds and pitches in, like spokes on a well-oiled wheel.

Charli also talks about the importance of the online community, reminding writers that spending time on social media is not a bad thing but an essential part of building community. For many of us introverted writers it is the easiest way of linking up with like-minded people. We gravitate like moths to the flame for our weekly meet-ups around the Carrot Ranch camp fire where Charli stokes the flames to inspire writers and build community.

Charli says that,

“Community is my foundation. All else pushes out from that hub like spokes on a wagon wheel.

Community is the hub; it’s our core. From the community, spokes of opportunity open up to reach the wheel that drives us in the writing market — readers.

An organic community is one that occurs naturally. It’s the kindred-spirits, the shared-values bloggers, the like-minded who gather to write, read and discuss. We might be from varied backgrounds, genres and experiences, but we find common ground in our process, ideas and words.”

People are social creatures, and that sense of belonging to a community, whether large or small, is something most desire. The type of community in which I have spent most of my life is the classroom community, typically an early childhood classroom. As with any other, it is essential that all members of a classroom community have a sense of belonging and feel valued and respected.

Creating a welcoming classroom with those essential ingredients: having a sense of belonging and feeling valued and respected were always high on my list of priorities as a teacher.  I tend to mention this frequently and have done so here, here and here, to list just a few.

That these ingredients, along with the other essentials, learning and fun, were thoroughly mixed through everything I did is what characterised my classroom. In my classroom, the community knew that everyone, whether child, parent, support staff, or volunteer, was welcomed and valued for the contribution each made.

Routines and expectations enabled the classroom to function effectively and I tried to add a little fun to lighten up even the dullest of routines expected of us. One routine that will be familiar to many is the daily roll call. The teacher sits or stands at the front of the room calling, in a repetitive monotone and in alphabetical order, the name of each child who responds with a half-hearted, “Present, Miss”. Meanwhile the other children wriggle and fidget waiting for the tedium to finish.

But not in my classroom. Within a matter of days my children knew their position, and probably that of many others, in the roll. While I marked attendance on the roll each day as required, I didn’t call the children’s names. Each child in turn stood  and greeted the class warmly, “Good morning, everyone!” The class and I responded by returning the greeting to the child. Everyone was involved all of the time, a community in action.

This five minutes of the day was always fun and filled with smiles and laughter. Some children jumped up with arms outstretched and called out loudly. Some popped up quickly and back down with a quick greeting. Some did a little dance and sang the greeting. Others greeted us with a new language they were learning, or their own first language.

When the children were confident with the order, we would sometimes do it in reverse order. This gave them a little more to think about, but it didn’t take them long to get the hang of it. The children who were usually last on the list enjoyed being first for a change.

When new children joined our class, their names weren’t always immediately added to the roll in their permanent alphabetical location as the rolls were printed fortnightly. This gave us a great opportunity to discuss where in the roll the child’s name would be. Sometimes we had to discuss more than the first letter in family names to determine the correct placement. Oftentimes this would be one of the first things children would insist upon. They wanted everyone to feel welcome and fit in to our warm classroom community.

Adding a little bit of fun to an otherwise tedious task had other benefits:

  • Building community,
  • Recognising individuals.
  • Being engaged,
  • An opportunity for activity
  • Learning alphabetical order
  • Developing memory

We could also have a bit of fun seeing how quickly we could line up in alphabetical order, each time improving on the last. It was a quick way of making sure everyone was there after an activity or break.

It is this theme of community that Charli has used as her flash fiction prompt this week, challenging writers to, in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about how a community reaches out. I hope you enjoy mine about a classroom community.

Belonging

 He waited quietly as yet another teacher heard his life story; a story without hope of redemption or the expectation of a happy ending. With each familiar incriminating snippet, “more schools than years”, “single parent”, “transient”, “neglect and abuse”, he’d instinctively glance towards the teacher. Instead of the usual furrowed brow and flat-mouthed grimace, he found sparkling eyes and a turned-up smile.  He peered into the room. When the children saw him looking, they waved him in. He hesitated. Then the teacher said, “Welcome to our class, David. We’ve been waiting to meet you. Come and join us.”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

48 thoughts on “The importance of community

  1. Bec

    What a beautiful FF. I can see this in your last classroom – I can picture your welcoming smile and that of the classroom community you would have created! Having witnessed the roll call, I saw how much fun the kids had with it! I would like to see more posts like this, Nor, where you discuss some of the creative and inventive touches you added to the day-to-day tasks in the classroom. There was always so much energy and fun in your classrooms.

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  2. stuckinscared

    Hi, Norah. Iv’e got only as far as reading the above ATM…I’ll come back to the links over the next week or so. A little and often is where I am just now. 🙂

    I love the picture of Norah-The-Teacher that this post presents. If only all classrooms could have a Norah! I love-love-love your morning greeting idea (and the imagery of smiley pop-up-kiddies that your description brings to mind). Wonderful!

    For now, my friend… I’m off to watch ET with Littlie. I’ll be back 🙂

    Take care, Kimmie x

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you popping over and sharing your wonderful comment, Kimmie; and for all your lovely Twitter support.
      These are the things I miss about working with children. It can be such fun.
      I hope you and Littlie enjoyed watching ET together. It is such a lovely movie. I can’t watch it without crying. It’s so emotive.
      Have a good week, Kimmie. Take care of you.
      Norah xo

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  3. Matt Renwick

    Norah, I appreciate the specific examples you shared here of how you have built a community within your classroom. This kind of work is a prerequisite for all other learning endeavors.

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  4. roweeee

    So many of us have had that experience of being excluded in a classroom or playground environment and how awful that felt. You strategy for calling the roll sounds great and perhaps it is in these little things that you build the connections which counteract the big b word…bullying.
    xx Rowena

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      1. roweeee

        My son’s Year 6 teacher runs two special lunch time groups….PATCH and CATCH. Patch is I think more of an outdoor program focusing on reducing bullying and CATCH is for children struggling to fit in in the playgroup so you might have shy kids or kids who are being picked on and it looks at building self-esteem and they had a lot of fun and did things like making pancakes. Had good music and toys etc. Lunchtime party. His teacher loves the kids so much and really goes beyond the job in caring for the kids. She is a real treasure!

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        1. Norah Post author

          Your son’s year 6 teacher does sound like a real treasure. I like the sound of the lunchtime programs and would love to learn more about them. Most children look forward to the social times at lunch breaks but there are some who, for a variety of reasons, dread them. It is great when schools and individual teachers address the needs of those who have difficulty fitting in. I have often thought that throwing a whole lot of children together in the playground where there is often little for them to do and when many have not developed effective social skills is counter-productive and just asking for trouble. While I am certainly against children’s lives being structured every minute of the day, I think it is beneficial for some activities to be provided for the children who either need or desire them. I used to open up my classroom (on days when I wasn’t on duty) so the children could come in and play if they wished. It provided a safe haven for those who had difficulties in the playground, or just wanted quiet time. Many children spent lunch time in the library where games and activities were also offered. It wasn’t just a sit in the corner on your own and read time, though that was possible for those who desired it. Thanks for sharing these awesome programs. 🙂

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          1. roweeee

            Our son never did well with free play at pre-school so no surprises when he got to school either. More structured play and a bit of assistance worked much better for him and these lunchtime groups were fabulous. Kids go in and out as they need but they do need to be referred and that ensures kids feel safe and comfortable there. The school library is also open for kids and there was a chess club and other activities.
            Our daughter is thriving in her new OC class. It’s only early days, but she finds the girls are so much nicer but I think it’s about like-minded kids coming together. She’s taking the violin back up and joining the band and taking up the baritone horn. I don’t know how she’s going to keep up with it all but it’s good to see her firing on all cylinders. At least, until the weekend. She’s looking pretty tired today.
            Take care and hope you’re having a great weekend!
            xx Rowena

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            1. Norah Post author

              Thank you, Rowena. I’m so pleased you were able to find schooling situations that suit your children’s needs and personalities so well. It’s great when it’s a good match, not so good when it’s not.
              Have a great week.

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              1. roweeee

                Such a relief, Norah. It’s terrible when your kids aren’t happy and it’s a struggle for so many kids to belong and fit in.
                My daughter and I went to see Matilda today and it’s coming your way. Surprisingly, I haven’t been to many productions but a the choir teacher at my daughter’s old school said it was the best production she’s ever seen. Books and reading vs popular culture are major themes and the set and effects are incredible. I’ve bought the musical score and the CD.
                Can’t believe it’s the start of another school week. We ran into some friends and had iced chocolates at the Lindt Cafe at Darling Harbour afterwards. It was a very indulgent day.

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                1. Norah Post author

                  I think happy kids is the primary aim of most parents. Happy kids = happy parents, and more likely happy parents = happy kids. It is a struggle for many to fit in and it’s great to find a happy niche. Many of us go through life believing we are different.
                  That sounds like a pretty good recommendation for “Matilda”! It’s a pity my littlies aren’t yet big enough for it. I love Roald Dahl. It sounds like you and daughter had a lovely girls’ day out. It’s always special to have days, and create memories, like that.

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                  1. roweeee

                    Thanks, Norah. We had a fabulous day. Now, I need to do something like this with my son. Miss has been listening to the DVD every night going to sleep. I passed the sheet music onto my Mum. I had a go at it on the violin at my lesson yesterday and it didn’t sound right. I’m moving onto scratching out “Phantom of the Opera”…the phantom violinist! Actually, that’s quite an apt title for me at the moment. Holidays are never good for keeping up the practice.
                    Hope you’re having a great week!
                    xx Ro

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                    1. Norah Post author

                      Thanks Rowena. A mother and son day now would be most appropriate. I like the sound of the phantom violinist. Dare I say ‘literally’ perhaps as well as for the title of a story. 🙂
                      Have fun!

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                    2. roweeee

                      Thanks for that, Norah. There it was staring me straight in the face and you’re right. It would make a great story. I am trying to do next week’s Carrot Ranch 99 word piece set in the wilderness. I have driven across the Nullarbor and seen eagles feasting on roadkill but I don’t think that was the sort of furry critter she was thinking of. Keat’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci comes to mind. Not quite sure which direction to go.
                      By the way, my daughter arrived home today with her Baritone horn. She’s joined the school band. I swear it must at least weigh half as much as her but she got a bit upset when I said that. I was pleased to be able to play a couple of notes given my lung issues. It was so funny when she first played it. Couldn’t help myself laughing, which thank goodness she didn’t take personally. She said it sounded like an elephant. Lady, who doesn’t like thunder or fireworks, was soon up on my lap!

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                    3. Norah Post author

                      Thanks Rowena. I have driven across the Nullabor too, both ways. Not only did I see eagles feasting on roadkill, I am sad to say that I added one of them to the tally. There was nothing I could do, it swooped down to the carrion just as I arrived at the same spot. It was obviously focused on its dinner, taking no notice of me. I was very sad to kill such a majestic bird. 😦
                      I had to look up and have a read of La Belle Dame. I recognised the title as of a poem I learned when at school, but that is a long time ago. I’m still thinking of my options with the wilderness too – feeling a bit lost and abandoned out there at the moment! 🙂
                      I love the story about your daughter’s Baritone Horn and Lady landing in your lap. It made me laugh just thinking about it. I hope you’re enjoying the weekend. xo
                      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. roweeee

                      Thanks, Norah.
                      Sorry to hear about your encounter with the eagle. Geoff and I have both seen eagles fiercely defending their road kill from oncoming vehicles.
                      I’ve often wondered how people take up more unusual instruments and schools bands now look like a likely possibility. She’s really taken to it and is practicing hard. She needed help carrying it into the other room for practice tonight and decided it needs to live there along with our violins.
                      This whole music thing has crept up on me and is all driven by my daughter. My mum is a piano teacher and I was sat at her baby grand piano when I was 4 with great hopes. I went about as far as sixth grade occasionally connecting with it but not in the way I have with the violin. I ended up with sensory processing issues and couldn’t even listen to music much for many years but learning the violin has helped ease that.
                      By the way, it looks like my daughter is teaching me to play with Baritone. Will wonder ever cease?
                      Hope you’re having a great weekend
                      xx Rowena

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                    5. Norah Post author

                      I’m so pleased your daughter is enjoying her new musical experience. I hope the family enjoys it too! I hope ear muffs are not required!
                      What a shame your sensory processing difficulties interfered with your musical development. It must be especially pleasant now to be involved again, and to see your daughter progress the way she is. I’m sure Grandma is very proud too.
                      Have a great week. xo

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    1. Sarah Brentyn

      Fantastic post. True about classrooms being communities (I’ll go as far as saying, to some, depending on age and circumstances, school is their world). So it’s important that it be a kind and welcoming one. 💕
      Charli’s comment about social media really got me thinking. I have a love/hate relationship with it (as most know) but she makes a good point.

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      1. Norah Post author

        Thanks so much, Sarah. Schools definitely need to be kind and welcoming. I think David has at last found one that is!
        I share your love/hate relationship with social media. Or maybe mine is more an uncertainty about its role and importance. I love the friends I have met, but I hate not having the time required to maintain the friendships.

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  5. Pingback: The Hub of Community « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. Charli Mills

    I always think how your classroom is something that so many of your students must carry in their hearts. That sense of belonging is so important and how else to learn respect through modeling it among peers and getting in in return. You are getting so good at taking your classroom experience and the ideas they embody and putting them into a fiction. I could easily see this reluctant boy suddenly feel something new and alive as he was greeted as one of the community.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. If the children don’t carry it in their hearts, I certainly do. It was where I felt most comfortable, where I felt I most belonged (other than with my own little family). I appreciate your kind words about my flash. I am trying to tighten up my stories. I feel I still have a way to go. 🙂

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  7. thecontentedcrafter

    I enjoy reading your descriptions of life in your classroom Norah – and being followed by that little flash fiction finishes it so nicely!

    You so reminded me of these days: When I taught 7 – 9 year olds we sang our roll call – everyone was involved, because there was a chorus and as they became familiar with the order of names they could join in that line too. Replies were sung back and the very new and the very shy had the whole class sing with them……….. shyness never lasted for long as this was each child’s moment to shine. As the students became more confident and the class community gelled, clapped rhythms were added in and eventually replaced the singing – we had a lot of fun with those!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Pauline, thank you so much for sharing your fun roll call. How I wish we had known each other in our working lives. What fun we would have had collaborating, how much we could have shared! I think the synergy would have been amazing! 🙂

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  8. Annecdotist

    I’m continually moved by your reminiscences of classroom life, Norah. Only you could have come up with such a creative and heartwarming way of addressing such a routine activity as taking the class register. Once again I’m wishing I could have been part of your class community.
    Love the flash too.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much, Anne. When I think of these activities and the children’s enjoyment I do miss it so. But there are many aspects of a teacher’s role that I do not miss. If I could be back in the classroom working with children the way I love to, I’d be back in a flash!

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