Perhaps the very concept of building a learning community, so vital to everything we do in our classrooms, has eluded us. It’s like Robert said in his recent comment here on rigor – perhaps we should define the term first.
To me, community in my classroom is the place where I find validation of myself while enjoying sharing the beautiful French language with my students through their help and society. When this happens, my students are automatically validated, and their being in my classroom takes on an entirely different tenor than in many of their other classes.
My classroom then becomes a place where happiness can glow for them when they walk into the room each day. Without the happiness, I don’t want to be in the room. That first smile blasts away the affective filter. The first scowl (a neutral face in a teacher is perceived by students as a scowl) raises it. When are our kids going to feel safe in this world, if we don’t provide at least one safe place for them to be during their dark days of growing up memorizing things that don’t interest them?
Since I am the teacher, I run things, I provide the input, but I need lots of flowing reciprocal and participatory back and forth sharing, with lots of happiness there as well, for it all to work. I must muster up cheerfulness no matter what. It’s my job. Many of us who have been doing this for awhile know what that really means, especially in the current climate of American schooling.
Still blaming kids? Well, it’s probably time for you to pull your head out of your ass on that one.
Give up the power trip. No one can really be happy if they are running the conversation, being in charge of everything, sweating in front of the group, trying to act like the teacher. Eric in a recent comment asked:
…does the power difference, the roles, between teacher and student make communication hard?…
It depends, in my view, on how much we invite kids as themselves into the communication.