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How do you foster a sense of community within a school, especially in the classroom?

Diary submitted by Julia A, Erasmus+ internship in Valencia

  Building a sense of community is important in a school and in a classroom to ensure that the students are comfortable with the teacher, the other students and the environment around them. I think this is particularly important for kids, but it can also be important for adults. It is also easier in a certain sense for kids, but as I taught adults I have managed to so. There are many ways of creating a sense of community amongst adults, of which 3 I try to incorporate in my every day teaching; knowing and asking about the student’s identity, listening to their opinions in discussions to understand their perspective on life, and promoting interactions amongst themselves so that they know each other well and respect each other.  

    Adult students have very interesting identities. Their culture, their family, and their job are all indications of their personalities and I think that a lot can be learned by sharing these identities amongst the teacher and the other students. Taking the time to understand each other’s identities is crucial in fostering a sense of community. For example, I had a student in my class that had gone through a tough divorce and found herself opening up about it in one of the classes. This led to a lot of encouragement and support from the rest of the students. These types of moments, in which a student shares something about her or his identity and the others respond positively is in my opinion important for classroom dynamics. Of course, sometimes students can respond in a negative manner, but then it’s the role of the teacher to mediate and promote trust and respect amongst the students. This has not happened to me yet.

    As a 20-year-old, I also found myself in a position where I was teaching adults often a lot older than me. I took this as an opportunity to learn as well as teach. I think teachers often think they are superior to their students in an attempt to dominate the classroom, but I believe that teachers can learn from their students just as much, or should at least strive to. In classroom discussions, listening to their opinions about topics such as investments, racism, and protests allowed me to do so. I think that is a good way to promote a sense a community in the classroom amongst adults.

    My third point is that it is important to promote interactions between the students as well. Adult students often bounce off each other and learn together and from each other, especially if they have built a good relationship. By doing student-centred activities in the classroom as well as warmers can really help to build these types of interactions amongst the students and help to foster a sense of community in the classroom. What I think is crucial, though, is that a teacher actively shows trust in the students but also be quite stern if there is a lack of respect between one another. This type of balance is key.

Bibliography:

“The Importance of Building Community in the Classroom.” TeacherVision, 17 Aug. 2017,

www.teachervision.com/blog/morning-announcements/importance-building-community

-classroom.

Lenz, Bob. “A Community of Learners: Building a Supportive Learning Environment.” Edutopia,

George Lucas Educational Foundation, 16 Nov. 2007, www.edutopia.org/envision-schools-learning-community-respect.

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