Classrooms or Communities? Or Both?
A piece I wrote for the Washington Post last week got a fair bit of feedback. It was a summary of thoughts around a comment made at the recent Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C., and concerned a phrase used by one of the presenters, who described classrooms as a "community of 30." As I wrote in the article, the concept is not too remarkable...except when you consider the implications.
"Community of 30" is the idea that the school—and, more so, the classroom—is a place where students learn cognitively as well as socially and emotionally. Children are there to learn not only how to read, write, add, and subtract, but also how to work together as a group, a team, and a community.
We already have the structures and settings to guide this. Children test out behaviors in the home, typically a safe and finite environment to grow and practice social interactions. Interactions take place between a regulated number of people—immediate family, then extended family, friends, and neighbors—and around a fairly fixed set of issues.
In my thinking, if schools and classrooms are geared to be places where we not only learn skills and content, but also places where we learn to socialize, cooperate, collaborate, and work as a community, then surely we should be making a more overt effort to do this. Basically, if socialization is key to student growth and if we have environments designed to foster its growth, and if a lack of socialization skills can have detrimental effects on another key aspect of the school environment—cognitive development—then why don't we do a better job of articulating this?
At least, as Dr. Rodkin stated, it should be necessary for every teacher to understand what "this society of children is like at your very own school."
What do you think? Read the article and feel free to post a comment.