I believe in the power of school communities. When they are present and functioning, these communities are wonderful, bordering on electrifying in the ways they bring together the parents, teachers, staff, and students. It’s an incredible feeling to be a part of one of these special communities. In this day and age of academic standards, stressed out teachers, and guilt-ridden administrators, I believe it is important that we once again see our schools as not only the purveyors of pre-scripted tidbits of knowledge, but as warm and nurturing communities that bring folks together and collaborate in the formation of our future generations.
This belief has always been there for me as an educator – one of those fleeting beliefs you emphasize in job interviews or application essays that always sounds good to say because educational theory says it’s important to say. But I didn’t realize how strongly I believed in it until this past week.
The daughter of the PE teacher in my former school in Annandale, Virginia died after a long battle with cancer. Her sons were in my eighth grade class long ago. I have known this family for some time and this news really affected me as I felt a deep sympathy for this amazing family I had grown to admire. Minutes after hearing about the death of this 25 year old former student of the school, the school community email chain fired up. A reception complete with hot dishes was planned following the funeral: “OK, First Grade families, you have the paper goods; Second Grade families, you have the drinks…” and so on. Updates on a possible scholarship fund in the name of the daughter were provided. The email chain stretched not only to those families currently attending the school, but also to alumni, former teachers in numerous states, and the former principal in California.
I wept for the daughter and her grieving family, but I also cried tears of gratitude for the outpouring of warmth on the part of this school community. Especially given that I am here in Colorado, and they were all there in Virginia. I felt close to them all, and even though many miles separated all of us, we were all together in this school community – together – and grieving.
What an amazing thing for the students of this school to see. Yes, we must teach our children the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. But I can’t help but to wonder what kind of learning took place in their formation as humans as a result of being a part of this school community.
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