They come. They go. Sometimes, they come late. Sometimes, they go early. Yesterday, one of our valued community members in 3rd period left early. Jaden and his family are moving to Colorado. And though we are only a third of the way through the year, his absence will be felt, his absence will matter. And that’s because we are a community. A community is defined by its members–each member. And that is the test of a community. If each member doesn’t matter, then it’s not really a community.
In education, we often talk about classroom culture, about classroom community, but talking it and walking it are not the same thing. Like anything worthwhile, community doesn’t happen by accident. It is created through intentional work. In the Project 180 classroom, community is a priority. From daily Smiles and Frowns to monthly Community Circles to daily Mantras, we work to build and sustain community every day. And that takes time. By year’s end, through such intentional activities, we will have spent well over a thousand minutes of instructional time. And while some may consider this a waste of precious time, I find it to be my best use of time. I do not believe that giving each member, each day time to matter is a waste of time. I do not believe that breaking down barriers and crossing clique lines is a waste of time. I do not believe that shared laughter, cheers, and tears are a waste of time. In that, I do not believe. But I do believe in kids. I do believe in community. I do believe in empathy, compassion, and kindness. But I do not believe these things happen by accident. So I make sure that I create the time, space, and opportunity for them to come to life, for them to grow. They are among the most important seeds I plant.
Yesterday, one of our saplings was uprooted, but I want to believe that he has the roots, the strength to flourish upon his replant. For even if he’s living states away, he is still our neighbor, he is still a member of our community. To ensure that he knew that, the kids and I made a card for him with the following words.
You will always be a valued member of this community.
You will always be a reader.
You will always be a writer.
You will always be a learner.
You will always be awesome.
We also rearranged our schedule to make sure that we had the opportunity for one more Community Circle before he left. All my other classes will be doing it today. Additionally, in a move that is not common for me, I gave Jaden my cell number, so that he can text in his Smiles and Frowns each day to the class. Of course, this won’t last forever. He will make new friends; he will create new connections; and he will join new communities, but for awhile we will keep him and he us. That’s the way of things. And even though, our ties will diminish, I want to believe that he will always remember his 3rd period class in little ol’ Cheney, Washington. But yesterday was not only about Jaden. It was about all the members in our community. It was not simply a testament to Jaden’s place among us. It was a testament to everyone’s place. It was, I hope, a revelation to each that he/she matters, that he/she is indeed a valued member of our community.
Along today’s trail we will…
...begin with Smiles and Frowns.
waste time…rather, build with Community Circle.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Friday, all.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.