Dr. Mara Tieken challenges us in her article, “Only Hope: Why Rural Schools Matter”, about our understanding of the true value that public schooling plays in our communities.
“As currently conceived, “school” is considered an institution for children not their parents and families…Only when we acknowledge the many roles that schools play can we fully recognize the promise of public schooling for all of our communities” (Tieken, 2013 p. 7).
In many places, particularly rural contexts, schools play an outsized role in the development of community. Yet, should that not be the case for every school? What other public institution brings together such a broad range of individuals across the social spectrum?
The chief concern for school’s should be creating community. Without community there can be no hope for learning. I’m not speaking about the surface level community, where we come out to show support for our school’s sports teams. That’s easy…I’m speaking to a deeper community built on mutual trust and shared partnership between stakeholders.
The first step for such community building is the acknowledgement among us educators that our schools serve well beyond the students immediately in front if us. When we embrace the role of community-building the outcomes of education become clearer because they are then defined by the needs directly relevant to those we serve.
Below is an excerpt from the book, The Choice: In Teaching and Education by the Arbinger Institute:
“Education is the lifeblood of a community’s continued existence. We have an obligation one to another.
There are many in every community who feel this call.
They should be involved in the educational endeavor.
As mentors, as tutors, as men and women to be admired — there are so many roles that need filling.
Every school and every classroom should be community space, for it is the community’s future that is learning” (Arbinger, 2001 p. 68).
Doing education together is crucial for the future of our schools and community. This will require changes in perspective about how we evaluate the true gains of schooling. What would happen if schools were evaluated more by their attempt to involve community stakeholders in the educating of our youth? Let us not be found wanting!
Learning cannot be a one-way relationship. Learning by its nature is symbiotic.
Take heed of a newly planted fruit tree. If left dependent only upon the water found in the soil, it will fail to root out and grow fruitfully. It must receive intentional watering and fertilizer to flourish and survive through its first winter.
We as teachers must also be cautious in only being dependent upon the content we find and keep. In quick time this will become stale and dry to those we are called to teach. Co-production of knowledge is the lifeline of great teaching and learning. Students engaged in the process of discovery and inquiry into the content we teach is the cascading of water and the addition of precious fertilizer to the tree of learning.
Surrendering the thought of us as THE teacher is critical in this process. We are only the teacher as much as we are the learner.