It is a well known fact that the more a person gets deeply invested in their community, the more they will want to take care of the people and things in their community.
I often talk about the importance of fostering a sense of community and yet I still feel like I keep missing the mark on how incredibly important having a sense of community is to the overall flow, feel, attitude, atmosphere of the classroom experience.
So I want to spell out what having a sense of community means to classroom success and as I do, you will see how to foster a sense of community.
Community is about building healthy relationships with each student in your classroom. Please do not breeze past this point. Without building your own healthy relationships, your ability to lead your students will be more difficult. With healthy relationships being a fundamental part of every conversation, decision, and instruction you give to students, your students will be more positively and constructively responsive to your leadership.
You can teach all the lessons on kindness you want but it wont ever have the same impact as cultivating kindness. You see, a kind word, genuine smile, caring touch, and warm response draws children towards you. It makes them want to be near you and want to please you. Kindness is a trait you must personally be intentional about and invested in so that you can successfully and effectively reach and lead your students. Every time you say a child’s name or give a directive, immerse it in kindness and as you do, you will be building a climate of kindness all throughout your community of young children.
Establish and Protect Trust
Trust can seem like a given but trust requires you to be predictable in your responses to the needs of your students. If a child knows that no matter how he or she behaves, you will respond with respect and kindness, he or she will trust you and be more responsive to you. Never undermine trust between you and your students. Always reassure. Always seek to build trust.
All throughout the day you can create opportunities for your students to feel invited into your community. Singing together, painting together, having conversations as a large group, reading together, and playing together all are opportunities for your students to feel invited into your community of children. Each child will respond in his or her own way but the important thing is for each child to genuinely feel invited to participate in every opportunity you provide.
Put Process over Product
You often hear the term “process over product” when it comes to creative art but this term holds true in all aspects of fostering a sense of community. When you focus on the process of ‘how to hang up a jacket’ rather than complaining about ‘the jacket you found on the floor’ then you are always focused on teaching, leading, guiding, and building students to be competent and successful. As each child builds new skills in the routine processes you provide around the classroom he or she will feel more confident and be more independent in his or her role within the community at large.
I could go on and on about fostering a sense of community because it has been the most effective tool I have used over the years for building a joyful classroom but I hope these tips will get you thinking. As you start to value the importance of fostering a sense of community, you will come up with far more ideas on how to do that then I have listed here.