Christensen’s Building Communities Out of Chaos was exactly the example and anecdote that I have been looking to read. “Build relationships” has been an Education buzzword I have heard over and over, but I have been left wondering, how? Making friends individually can be difficult enough but getting a disparate group of 30 or more students to take part in a “community” seems like a tall ask.
However, Christensen’s personal experience at Jefferson helps show how to do this. The most important line to me was, “Building community begins when students get inside the lives of others in history, literature, or down the hallway, but students also learn by exploring their own lives…” (Christensen, 6). For students to become a community they need to know each other, and the teacher. By using relevant books as a starting point for discussions on topics that interest students Christensen provides an avenue for students to share their personal stories.
I also appreciate the piece pointing out the value in a teacher being open with themselves. I have heard arguments for and against being an open teacher, but I am a relatively open person and would prefer to not hide” myself from my students. I have had friends say I talk a lot about myself, not in a bad way, but relating personal and family anecdotes and fun facts. Hearing that did not surprise me since I do it on purpose. It is hard to get other to open up to you if you are not open to them. So far, I have had success with being open with others and plan on continuing that strategy. It is nice to be validated by this article.
Using books to build community means that using culturally relevant books will be important. Most classrooms will have a diverse spread of literature will need to be read. A single story will never be enough to understand others, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story” (Chimamanda Nogzi Adichie). In order to get into the lives and history of others mean taking a focused effort to understand others and to avoid stereotypes this means hearing as many stories as possible.
Another excellent part of the article is “When students’ lives are taken off the margins and placed in the curriculum, they don’t feel the same need to put down someone else.” (7) If students are uncaring, bullying, or abusive to each other than it will be impossible to build a community or relationships. However, Christensen’s quote bring sit back to making students feel heard and like they have agency. If they are part of the curriculum and involved in the learning process, there will be greater buy in to lessons and once they get to know one another they will not hurt one another.
Building Communities Out of Chaos helped put the pedological theory I have been studying this Fall into context and see demonstration if it in action. Hearing an experienced teacher own struggles with a classroom also helped ease my own anxiety. It will not be perfect from day one, but I do have a whole semester to work with my students and bring them to where they need to be.
resource: Facebook, there are a lot of teaching groups on Facebook with resources and advice. I encourage everyone to take a look around for groups relevant to your content area and grade level.