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What is classroom community anyway?

Community. What does that word really mean? It has a warm feeling to it, doesn't it? As teachers, we want to create it because we know it'll make our lives easier. Not only that, we believe that it'll make our students lives easier. Even better than that, it'll improve the ability for all students to feel safe in our classrooms and inevitably lead to their overall success at school. So, how does one build community? That's what I'm interested in right now as another school year begins. This invisible thing called community requires people and shared experiences to create. Community is what helps us to go from complete strangers on the first day of school to friends that are sad to see the school year end, never having the same group of people together again. It's the foundation for the memories we create as teachers and students. The reality is this idea of community (and building it) means different things to different people. Even though this may be the case, we know what it feels like to be part of a community that welcomes people of all shapes, colors and experiences. I'm not sure if there is a blueprint for how a teacher builds a community with their students but the fact is that it starts with them, the teacher. Teachers have so much more power than they realize. It took me the better part of my eight-year teaching career to begin to understand that what we are doing is much more than teaching students a curriculum. We are modeling how we treat others by how we treat ourselves and our students. We are modeling how we respond to adversity when we face a challenging situation in our classroom or share one that we've experienced. In many ways, we are modeling what it means to be human in a world that tells our students (and us) that they aren't good enough or smart enough to accomplish their dreams. So, as you begin another school year building community in your classroom, keep in mind that students (and hopefully you) want that warm feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of a community. And that community starts with you. Relax. You're human. Just be one.