Friday, May 18, 2012

Establish Community WITH Students

The term Supportive Learning Community is significant.  The definition of each word in itself is influential.  Connecting them as a joint expression makes a statement, one that infers a unified body of individuals working together to advocate for students along the path of their learning journey.  

As we share the responsibility of student success within our school environments, do we take the time to allow students to be a direct part of the equation?  Is establishing a Supportive Learning Community something we do FOR students or something we do WITH students?

When students walk through our doors into their learning environments, they should be greeted with buckets of smiles, personal connections, and empathy.  Acceptance should be encountered around every corner.  They should be able to walk with a light-hearted step, confident posture, and a positive glow.  We want their home away from home to be a reliable place with consistent expectations and genuine relationships.

We must be mindful, though, to welcome each student into our community rather than demanding their presence.  What are their ideas?  What do they have to contribute?  Allowing them the opportunities to share their voice, from even the youngest of members, can enlighten a community and provide the chance for everyone to learn and grow.
Every person needs to feel a sense of belonging to truly be a member of a community.  They must identify with being a part of the group, clearly being able to label the contributions they are able to make and the security they feel.  To ensure our students associate themselves WITH the Supportive Learning Community, we need to reinforce the following:

Acknowledgement-  Every student should be greeted each and every day with personalized communication and connections, from several people within their community, throughout the learning day. 
Acceptance- Every student should feel understood for who they are and confident in their abilities.  They must see diversity being celebrated and honored.
Appreciation-  Every student should identify that their voice and opinions are treasured, ideas and perspectives are recognized, and positive contributions are respected.

Do we take the time to reflect on our students’ understanding of themselves as community members within our Supportive Learning Community?  Do we know without reasonable doubt that they each feel valuable and are secure in understanding that their voice makes a difference?  Are we ensuring that our interactions through the day make students feel like a star with awe-inspiring uniqueness? Students should each experience their importance with the community, like a bright shining star in the vast sky.  Taking for granted the brilliance that shines around us would be a shame, as we would be missing so much.  Students are amazing for who they are.  Their voice matters and amazing things occur from taking the time to acknowledge them, accept who they are, and appreciate the perspective they have to offer.  It could make all the difference in the world.
***This post has been cross-posted on ASCD EDge.

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