Building Community Improves Student Learning
It’s been a wonderful first week of school! As I visited classrooms across the school, I observed students welcoming those who are new to the school, getting reacquainted with friends from last year, and remembering ways to work together to create a learning environment that is kind and inclusive for all.
It was so obvious this week that students are excited to be back at school. There was such a wonderful and positive energy throughout the school. What I know from students is that they are excited about school because they want to make progress, they want to accomplish work that is meaningful to them, and they also want to be able to do this in an environment that is truly supportive. Being part of a positive social environment or community ends up being very important in student happiness and academic growth.
Parents of course value Oak Meadow because of the quality of the academic experience. Parents also tell me it’s just as important for children to be part of a community where there are opportunities to learn to get along with others, develop positive and healthy relationships, learn from their mistakes, and be recognized as a unique individual person.
Here are some of the reasons why community building improves student learning:
- Students who are more caring about others develop a deeper sense of health and wellbeing in their own lives.
- Students feel more of a sense of belonging and inclusion when they are engaged in work that includes being part of something larger than their own interests and pursuits
- As students learn more about what makes them unique — family history, interests, hopes and goals –they feel a connection to others when they discover that other students are unique in many varied ways as well.
- Students feel a more expansive sense of freedom when they become accountable for something that supports others in the community.
- Building community supports the development of a school culture that values equality and equity.
- Students benefit when they receive helpful feedback from others, and this includes feedback from peers as well as teachers.
- The Montessori model is based on a multi-age classroom and the idea of apprenticeship and mentorship. Often the most impactful learning comes about from a peer who is just slightly older and more experienced and helps a student see how to move forward in meeting the next challenge.
- As students move into Upper Elementary and Middle School, the concept of apprenticeship expands to include connections with experts and professionals in the larger community outside of school walls.
One of the ways that students and teachers build a positive and healthy school community is to begin the school year by working together to create a written “Charter” of how each member of the classroom will become responsible for acting and speaking in ways that are kind, respectful, and inclusive. Some classes have already begun to work on their classroom Charters this week, and I will share more about this in my blog next week.