Tag Archives: community

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.

 

Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school

In a previous post I introduced you to Pauline King, The Contented Crafter. In comments on my blog, Pauline revealed that she was a teacher so passionate about education that she had attempted to establish an alternative school. I was excited to discover that we have these things in common and I immediately invited her to share some additional thoughts about children, learning, schools and education.

I am honoured that she has agreed, and delighted to welcome her here. In this post Pauline shares a little of her life journey, and her reflections on teaching and school. In a future post she will share her some of her wisdom about children and parenting.

Pauline, please tell us a little about yourself. What things are most important to you? What do you hope to achieve through blogging?

art of contentment

I was a Steiner School Teacher for some twenty years, here in NZ and in the UK briefly.  It was a demanding vocation that taught me more than I ever imparted to the students in my care.  I left teaching in 2003, spent a year or so recovering my health and eventually took up life coaching – a kind of a natural segue as I had spent a lot of my time in the school system mentoring young parents and teachers. I retired in 2014 and stepped full time into the art of contentment.  It’s what I think I spent my life looking for and in these later years what I taught to the women who came to me for life guidance. 

joy of blogging

In my personal life I have always been a creator – hand work, interior design and decorating, gardening and various crafting and artistic outlets that changed over the years.  I took up blogging almost three years ago simply to keep track of my creative work as I was notorious for making stuff, giving it away and not being able to remember what I made or the processes around it.  I soon started using my blog as an on-line diary, documenting the things that amused or dismayed me along with whatever I was playing around with at the time.  I don’t think I really expected anyone to read my blog and was quite surprised when I got comments and returned visitors and followers.  In a surprisingly short time I discovered a new world that was peopled by like-minded souls and fun people and I kept blogging for the joy found in the community that built up around my little blog.

I live alone in a tiny house with a Maine Coon called Olando and a Shi-Tzu X named Siddhartha [Siddy for short].

positivity

I live simply and contentedly, paying close attention to my own personal development and take responsibility for the events in my life.  I am not religious but view life and the planet from a spiritual outlook.  I study quantum physics, enjoy nature and believe in spreading positivity wherever I can.

I don’t write about education in my blog – even though it is an area I am passionate [and opinionated] about – I simply don’t want it to impinge into the simple creative life I lead nowadays.

Pauline, you were a teacher? What was it that attracted you to teaching in the first place?

teacher

I always wanted to be a teacher, from a very young age.  School was a safe place for me in a family that was damaged and dysfunctional, so I guess that may have been the genesis.  However, I was not allowed to stay in school and was put to work in a factory at the age of 14 [my mother lied about my age].  When I gained my freedom I set about continuing my education and have kept on learning formally and informally ever since.  I was 33, a wife and mother, before I finally achieved the goal I had as a child.

What things did you love about teaching?

art of teaching

I loved being in the classroom – working with the students and the Steiner curriculum [which is a wise and clever thing].  Later when I side-stepped into too much administration and other non-teaching roles I simply dried up and eventually became ill.  That made me really conscious that it was the art of teaching that I really loved.

You said that you spent many years attempting to establish an alternative school for your eldest daughter. Why was this important to you? What was lacking in schools available to you? How would your school differ?

bloom and blossom

My feeble attempts to start a school were short lived, I did not go as far as you did as there was little support or enthusiasm for my initiative.  Within two years I had discovered Steiner Education and serendipitously fallen head first into that with my two daughters.  Both began to bloom and blossom in ways they never had in the state system they were so briefly in and I soon transferred my interest and passion to that form of education.  I began an informal study under the auspices of a venerable old retired teacher and soon went on to study full time.  I think I was incredibly fortunate for throughout this time I was mentored and supported by several practising teachers, and one wonderful head lecturer who went out of his way to keep pouring his wisdom into my listening ears.

How wonderful to have the support and encouragement of a community so passionate about children and education. Do you have anything else to add?

it takes a village

Only that, from this vantage point I find I have become a person who would like schools scrapped and to see education in the true meaning of the word be given back to parents and the community.   My new mantra is ‘It takes a village to raise a child – and educate one too.’

I totally agree with your new mantra, Pauline! Thank you for your openness in responding to my questions. I could hear the passion in your words as you answered them. I appreciate the time you took out of your contented creative schedule to share your thoughts with us. I think there are many of us who could do with some contentment mentoring. I look forward to welcoming you back next week to share in your wisdom about children and parenting. I’d also love to know more about the Steiner curriculum. Another conversation …

Addendum: Since this post was published, in an attempt to add clarity to her statement referring to the scrapping of schools, Pauline has expressed some of her reasons for wishing to see changes to schools and the way children are educated. She has done so in a response to an observation made and query posed by Anne Goodwin which you can read here, and a little more clarification here. I apologise, Pauline, if the inclusion of that statement misrepresented your position and caused you concern. It made perfect sense to me! The differences I see between education and schooling feature regularly in my posts.

Connect with Pauline on Twitter or on her blog The Contented Crafter where you can also check out her delightful Gift Shop

Thank you

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