Engagement, Opinion, Policy, Promising Practices, School Community

Building Community

Around the world, our sense of community is changing. Technology and social media have made the world smaller than ever, and people are building their own communities, regardless of geographic boundaries. School communities are, inevitably, changing too. A more expansive concept of school seems to be emerging, with connections and relationships extending well beyond the school walls to encompass families, community partners and mentors, and “virtual” classmates from schools around the world. Within the school walls, an increasingly diverse student population and shifts in the roles of teachers and learners are also changing the dynamic. In this issue, we wanted to explore how educators can create and support vibrant, positive, creative school communities.

The articles that were contributed in response are a wide-ranging and inspiring look at what is possible. Chris Wejr (p.12) shares his experience using social media to include parents into the school community and reinforce positive school culture. Ray Derkson (p. 20) describes Manitoba’s innovative approach to ensuring strong community input and participation across a huge and widely diverse school division. And Thomas Arnett (p. 16) presents models of “blended learning” that change the structure of the school day and the relationship between student and teacher.

One of the inspirations for this issue was a two-day workshop CEA held in October 2013, titled, “What’s Standing in the Way of Change in Education?” As part of the process, participants were asked to share their personal vision of “the school of their dreams.” Person after person described schools rich in authentic, meaningful, and personalized learning experiences. But another strong thread had to do with community, as described in the summary report:

“The schools of their dreams are welcoming, collaborative environments, respectful of the many layers of diversity that now define the Canadian social fabric. They are places where a strong sense of community participation and contribution adds to the rich set of resources that can bring learning to life.”[1]

There may be a long way to go to fully achieve the “dream schools” described to us in the CEA workshop. But exciting changes are being made right now to create richer, stronger, more responsive school communities, as the examples in this issue demonstrate. Whether at the classroom, school or regional level, there is no lack of exciting ideas. To paraphrase Ray Derkson in his article, “Let’s try them and see what happens.”

This blog post is part of CEA’s focus on The New School Community, which is also connected to Education Canada Magazine’s The New School Community theme issue and a Facts on Education fact sheet How does parent involvement in education affect children’s learning?  Please contact info@cea-ace.ca  if you would like to contribute a blog post to this series.

[1] Read the whole report at: http://cea-ace.s3.amazonaws.com/media/CEA-2013-2014-AR-Annual-Performance.pdf

Meet the Expert(s)

Holly Bennett

Holly Bennett

English Editor of Education Canada.

Holly Bennett is the English Editor of Education Canada.

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