Creating a Learning Community
Aug 30, 2016
Written by Ms. Guillory, Upper Team Teacher
As a first-time teacher, the first few weeks of school feel make-or-break. This is when you establish your authority as a leader in the classroom even though you’re only about five years older than your oldest student. This is when your students will figure out how many buttons they can push before your head pops off. This is when you show the other teachers you have a voice and an opinion despite your naïveté and youth. This is when you show parents that, despite the fact that you’re working on your Master’s in special ed., you do have the credibility to teach, coach, and help shape the minds of their students - that you do deserve to be here. If it were any other place than Horizon Academy, I’m not sure I’d have the support from students and staff that I’ve come to cherish and rely on (whether they know it or not).
Over the past few weeks, Mrs. Asher, our Head of School, and Mrs. Hagen, our new Xtreme Reading teacher, inspired us to create learning communities within our classrooms. A community does not just mean several people sharing space; a community needs nurturing and care in order to flourish.
In our classroom, we felt that creating a shared goal would bring us closer and foster our learning community. As a group, we brainstormed ways to achieve this (while holding ourselves accountable) and came up with something simple: Daily, we will each ask one person in the classroom how they are doing. This will not only accomplish the important skill of establishing genuine concern for the other members of our community, but will also help take us out of our busy own heads to empathize with someone else.
If only you could see the loving community forming in our classroom, where students are freely speaking about difficulties in their past and encouraging one another to keep trying and striving for greatness. Even when things feel difficult, my students remind me why I’m here.
Establishing a learning community is just as important among staff members as it is within the classroom. As a new teacher, I’m constantly wandering into uncharted territory. Last week, I was having a particularly difficult time with a student, feeling like I wasn’t going to be able to meet their needs as a learner. I sought advice from my fellow Upper Team teachers, who were willing to drop everything and help me solve the problem. I spoke to the counseling team, who were ready to come up with solutions and brainstorm new ways to approach the issue. I spoke with the administrators, who, as always, were ready to oversee and implement the necessary changes.
Everyone is working for our students’ success, and everyone will check in with me in the coming days and weeks to see how things are going with this student. It is that constant, continuous care that reminds me I’m not an island; we’re all in it together.
There is a long road ahead, and even if there is some magical day when I stop feeling like I have to prove myself to everyone else, I know I will be surrounded by a community that inspires me to keep striving for the greatness Horizon Academy inspires. The first few weeks flew by with many hiccups. However, I know I need not worry; while it seems sometimes like the world might want to break us, it is the community we have built that will build us back up again. It is an honor to be part of this wonderful place, and I look forward to the journey.