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It Takes A Village

January 17, 2014

I believe that establishing effective and positive relationships is a significant factor in developing high functioning schools and promoting student success. Students, parents, and teachers all need to have a mutual feeling of trust and understanding with each other. John C. Maxwell summarized this belief saying: “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” While I believe the relationship between students, teachers and parents is paramount, I have come to believe the relationship needs to be extended.

Shared Vision of Learning

The Alberta Education document, Inspiring Education, suggests that schools must engage the entire community in the process of educating students. The community should not be limited to parents, students, and teachers. Rather, schools must engage the entire community in the process. Laurel Beaton (Twitter: @laurelbeaton) suggests that by engaging the entire community a shared vision of learning can be achieved. In addition, a shared responsibility for learning will result.

The shared vision and shared responsibility for learning is a significant component of learning in the 21st Century. The process of learning has become more important than the content students learn. Students who sit in my class have immediate access to more information than I could ever think to provide to them. However, they need practice in developing the skills to access this information in such a way so as to solve complex problems and share their findings with a wide network of people. When a shared vision of learning exists, all community members can have input regarding the skills which they deem to be important for our students who will enter the work force in the near future. By sharing a vision of learning, schools can better prepare students for what they will face outside the classroom.

Us vs. Them

I sometimes feel that the world of education is an us vs. them mentality. It seems that the public is sometimes at odds with the teachers and vice versa. This troubles me quite a bit. Are we not all in this together? I would suggest that a shared vision of learning will remove the adversarial relationship that sometimes exists in regards to education. I am not suggesting that it will be easy nor immediate. However, we must be willing to take the first steps in furthering our community connection. This should not be left to school leaders, policy makers, or the public alone. This is a shared process and must include everyone. We will all need to be vulnerable and admit we don’t have all the answers. It will take an open and honest debate. Even though this prospect seems daunting, are our students not worth it? After all, are we not all in this together?

Have a great day,

Sean

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3 Comments
  1. Another great post Sean. Involving the community is one of the great untapped resources we have in education. In a system that is looking to building competencies and authentic learning tasks, what better way than to include those in the community that are already doing the work. Schools each have their own unique culture and I think sometimes the uniqueness of our schools is lost in a push towards standardization and efficiency. I think there are a few ways that we can include our communities, we can document and share our learning (like you do here), we can showcase our students’ work, we can invite the community into our schools and we can bring the community in as part of the assessment piece. For example, I have students working on an advertising campaign for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms right now, part of the process will see students work with a marketer and receive feedback, would the marketer go forward with the campaign? What would they change? All of this, I hope, gives a degree of authenticity, but also provides an opportunity to develop partnerships and relationships within the community. This is a huge topic and there are a lot of avenues one could take, thanks for the post.

  2. I love the vision you have and I absolutely agree that our students are worth the effort of trying to build a shared vision and responsibility for education. What I’ve seen in Calgary, however, has been a large number of groups (parents, teachers, district administrators, board officials, politicians and so-called experts) each defending their own “turf” and too confident in their own knowledge to listen to anyone else talk about what’s best for kids. So often the conversations turns quickly from “what do growing and developing children and youth need?” to “what do we, teachers, parents, employers and principals, need.” The us vs them mentality is pervasive and cannot be easily, quickly or completely changed.

    As you say, each school is unique. I applaud every teacher and every principal and every school council member that takes the first hesitant and lonely steps to reach out and connect with other human beings, make a concerted effort to understand and offer to work together. We can’t change other people, but we can show the way.

    • Thanks very much for this, Robert. I do agree that arguments over turf sometimes trump the building and development of community. I think there is much that can be done here. While I do not always agree with the directives from Alberta Education, Inspiring Education seems to be the framework we can use to move this conversation forward.

      Thanks again for the comments,
      Sean

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