Learn together, Play together

Well, here we are once again. This year marks my 32nd year at Mid-Pacific, and my 35th year of teaching and as the year is starting up, I’m reflecting about the upcoming year, where my journey in education is taking me, and in particular, the value of community and building a place that is both powerful and rewarding.

Not that it’s a surprise, but I have found it interesting over the last few years to look at the analogies between faith in religion, and faith in the mission we serve in education. Rob Evans (http://www.robevans.org) in his wonderful writings makes the point that there are many similarities between the behaviors of people of faith and religion, and behaviors of teachers and education. We have a high level of belief in the work we do, our goal is to capture every last soul and by and large teachers are a selfless lot – taking on additional work, bringing home extra work, and never feeling like they have quite reached every one of their faithful as they might. In many ways, we treat our students in our classrooms like a pastor might think of his congregation. The goal is to save souls (or at least make sure they are better at the end than they started).

What strikes me then, is the importance of community in this enterprise. Not just the classroom community that we build with our students, but the community we build with our colleagues to strengthen our work, support each other, and to laugh and share in a way only like-minded practitioners can. Truthfully, one of the joys for me over the last six years in our MPX department has been the easy collegiality and the importance of shared values and work ethic that our team has built and shared. In many ways, it informs my classroom practice to try and build that same kind of powerful learning community with my learners as well. In many ways, both with our teaching team, and our students, the days often feel as much that we are playing together, as it is that we are working together, often with the lines blurred between one and the other. Sometimes people misread this as not “rigorous” enough, but in my world and experience, the value of connectedness and laughter and a sense of common vision for where we are going sets the foundation for students committing deeply to the work we do, and I think likewise with the teachers that do this together.

So, as this year starts, it is on my mind that the first job that I need to establish is to make sure that the teams that I’m working with (MPX and the Technology and Engineering Departments) as well as my classroom establish a common sense of why we are working together, and what the norms are that govern our behaviors so that we are all coming from a common sense of positive, productive energy. Hopefully in a month, I’ll reflect back on this post which is kicking off the school year for me, and see some progress made in this behalf that is both intentional and effective. After all, if we can’t all learn together and play together then the year will be a much tougher slog than it needs to be if we all support, share and laugh together.

( Sidebar – I am honestly embarrassed I have been blogging as little as I should do. Like any habit, it is either something we form, or lose track of. My goal is to give our MPX department time every Friday during our meetings to write for 15 minutes. That is exactly how long this post took to create.)

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