Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On the Desperate Need for Community

A friend of ours just sent us a reference ( ) to an article that describes how students are using circles and talking sticks to share stories. They report how this practice is improving relationships in the schools.

Can this really be news? I don't mean that the practice is not great and very important, but it should be obvious. In this day when we know that the body, mind and emotions are deeply interconnected in all of us, why are educators not more sophisticated in their understanding of how critical relationship is to learning?

Some adolescents are now texting between one hundred to over 1,000 messages a day. Isn't social networking all about relationship?

Yet many students don't know fellow students they see every day in their school. No wonder we struggle with things like bullying or racial acts of hate. Then, instead of bringing kids together to talk and share who they are, we end up establishing a system of punishment or disciplinary action because we think threat will solve the situation.

Meladonna Some, the author of "Of Water and of Spirit" once said that when a community requires policing from the outside to patrol it, it is not a community. All too often we look for the police or some other entity other than teachers or students to solve relationship problems.

Geoffrey and I just completed a book on Process Learning Circles (Strengthening Your Professional Learning Community: The art of learning together - ASCD).

We wrote for adults because we believe that community begins at the top. It also emphasizes
how critical self knowledge is whenever we want to work together.

Since teachers are most convinced that something works when they see it working with students first, we suggest that they have students learn together using the Process Learning Circle Format. I am always astonished at the results. Even when I think students know each other and can work together on projects, I find this is seldom the case.