In this episode, we talk about the importance of community building in our classrooms, schools, and communities. The Unpacking Education hosts take turns sharing strategies that have been successful for them and for colleagues who they’ve worked with over the years. Tune in and fill your toolkit with a long list of ideas that you can implement today.
While a driving purpose for schools is to teach students academic curriculum, educators know all too well that academic learning will not happen if students do not first feel safe and comfortable in our classrooms. As highlighted by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, students will not reach the self-actualization of their potential until they have their basic needs met and feel safe, included, and feel some degree of self-esteem. The community-building process is a critical part of this equation.
Throughout this episode, you will discover a wealth of specific community-building strategies. The following are a few highlights:
- It’s Important: Rena equates community building with belonging—something every student needs to feel. Paul reflects on an early teaching experience that prompted him to make community building a top priority in his classroom, and Winston talks about “academic belonging.”
- Community as a Key to Learning: From Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to respectful outreach to parents, each host describes reasons that community building is essential to the learning process.
- Building-Wide Community: The team shares numerous ways that schools can build a community beyond individual classrooms. Ideas include buddy classrooms; virtual outreach to families; community organizations; mentorship programs; and meaningful, community-based projects.
- Classroom Strategies: Within an individual classroom, teachers can implement a wide range of community-building strategies. Some of those shared by our hosts include emotional check-ins, a puzzle piece activity, “Me Bags,” class charters, T-charts, and sentence stems.
- Community-Building Activities: Paul talks about committing the first 2 weeks to intentional community building and weaving those activities into academic work. Winston shares a strategy called “My Favorite Wrong” as well as various check-ins. Rena talks about choosing a class specialist every week and also allowing students to teach a lesson about something they care about.
- Other Opportunities: The group talks about the role that advisory period can play in building relationships as well as Power Hour electives and after-school clubs.
If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:
- Why is community building important?
- How do you build community within a classroom?
- How do you build community within a school building?
- How do you extend community building to families?
- What is your favorite community-building strategy?