Building Community as an Educator
As educators, we know we should foster a community of learners in our classrooms. This community is meant to help students thrive and learn. But often we do not have that same expectation for ourselves. We also need to be a part of our own learning community, one with our fellow educators.
Too often, we are alone in our classrooms. We don't share resources, challenges, or our needs with each other for fear of looking like we don't have it all together, or maybe because no one shared anything with us as new teachers. These myths and loneliness perpetuate the idea that we are, in fact, alone in this journey.
However, one way we can break free from this mindset to build a community of learning in an environment where we can all thrive, as adults and students, is by sharing resources and communicating with others.
When was the last time you shared resources with another educator or discussed a challenge you faced in or out of the classroom? By openly sharing what works (and doesn't work) in our classrooms, we create a space where everyone can learn from each other.
We Can Foster Professionalism
Sharing resources helps us build community, and there are other benefits aside from sharing resources. We also build professionalism. When we are able to share our resources openly, we can show our students, colleagues, and employers that we are lifelong learners, and we should not be afraid to share what we know, or what we don’t know, and this shows that we are committed to our field.
There is another common mindset in education, that I see as more of a myth: Perfection. This does nothing but hold everyone back on our journey. Perfection is not real, and each and every one of us has our own definition of perfection. By sharing resources, we dispel that myth by building the connections we need and a supportive environment - all of us working toward the same objective.
How we start is with communication, which is key to building a strong community. We need to be open and honest so that we can help each other grow and learn.
Ask for (and accept) constructive criticism.
One of the most important things we can do in order to foster a community of learners is to ask for - and accept - constructive criticism.
When we give and accept feedback, we build confidence in our ability to learn. We also learn how to properly critique materials, which in turn helps our students grow and improve. If we are not comfortable accepting feedback, how can we be confident in the feedback we offer our students?
It is important to remember that feedback is not always negative. In fact, constructive criticism can be a very valuable tool in our learning arsenal.
Vulnerability is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to feedback, but vulnerability is essential in order to connect with others. Receiving feedback can put people in a very vulnerable space, and for some, it can be really hard to be vulnerable. However, when we are vulnerable, we are able to build relationships, and this is one of the most important things we can do as educators. Opening ourselves up to vulnerability can be scary, and if that is something that scares you, then do it little by little.
We also need to be willing to listen. This means that we need to be open to what others have to say and be willing to change our opinion based on what we hear.
In order to build a community, we need to be willing to be ourselves.
Find Your Community
The classroom can be a very lonely place. The perception on the outside is that we are connected to students, but that connection isn’t the only one we need. A community is one that survives on give and take, and too often in our classrooms we are mostly giving. Alone in our classrooms, we tell ourselves stories about why we don't connect with others: We are busy, we are fearful of sharing with others (as mentioned above), or others don't have time to connect with us.
Whether these stories are true or not, we can build a community outside of the people we see on a daily basis. This can be done through social media, blogs, or even in person, but the bottom line is we need to be connecting with others. Educators need to find ways to connect with other educators so we don’t feel alone, so we can learn from each other, and share resources.
When we connect with others, we are building our capacity to understand others. When educators understand each other, they can better support their students. This understanding can come from simply listening to each other, discussing issues, and sharing resources. When we understand each other, we are more likely to work together to build a community.
See Yourself as a Consultant and Development Team.
We often think about our classrooms as our own personal spaces where we can do whatever we want. However, this mindset is limiting. When we see ourselves as a consultant and development team, we are more open to feedback and are willing to try new things.
Turn yourself into a resource. When we turn ourselves into resources, we become less of a burden to the people around us and more of a help. We no longer have to carry the weight of everything ourselves.
We can give our time, knowledge, and resources to the people around us and help them learn.
This isn't always easy. It takes bravery to open our hearts and share what we know. But in the end, it will be worth it.
When we feel like we are all in this together, we are more likely to be confident in our teaching. This confidence allows us to be more creative and challenge our students. It also allows us to be more open to feedback, which is one of the most important components of building a learning community.
For the Future of Education - Grow year after year
In order to continue growing as a professional, and to reduce the feelings of isolation, here are some suggestions:
Collaborate: Collaborating with other educators allows us to share ideas, strategies, and materials that we may or may not have tried on our own. By working together, we can create a community that is better equipped to help our students learn.
Creating an Online Community: We can also create an online community to share resources with each other. This allows us to connect with people from all over the world, and it also allows us to share resources that we wouldn't feel comfortable sharing in person.
Improving Year After Year: When we continually improve our teaching skills, we create a space for our students to grow and learn. This growth mindset makes students excited about learning, and strive for continual improvement.
Show Support: When we share resources with each other, we are showing that we are supportive of each other. By providing resources, we are saying that we believe in each other and our ability to learn.
Be Open: When we are open about what we are doing in our classrooms, we are inviting others into our journey. We are telling them that we want them to be a part of our community.
Share What Works (and what doesn’t work): When we share what works (or doesn’t work) in our classrooms, we are giving others the opportunity to learn from us. We are providing them with the tools they need to be successful.
Some benefits of belonging to a professional community include:
Enhanced learning. When you learn in a supportive and collaborative environment, you're more likely to retain what you've learned.
Increased productivity. When you can rely on others to share their knowledge and expertise, you're more likely to be productive.
Greater satisfaction with your work. When you feel like you're making a real contribution to the community, you're more likely to be satisfied with your work.
You’re reading this blog post because you want to be a better educator. You want to find new and innovative ways to reach your students, and help them achieve their fullest potential.
But it can be tough – there are so many things to learn, and so many new technologies and techniques popping up all the time. How can you keep up?
The answer is simple: build a learning community. A learning community is a group of educators who come together to share knowledge, discuss ideas, and learn from each other. When you have a learning community, you always have someone to turn to for advice, support, and inspiration.