Schools and Classrooms as Communities of Grace Dr. Bruce Hekman, Calvin College
School memories What is your vivid memory of your JK-12 school experience?
Some challenges • SURVEY: MANY U.S. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS BORED IN CLASS A majority of U.S. high school students say they get bored in class every day, and more than one out of five has considered dropping out, according to a recently released survey.
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times • “In the midst of unprecedented material affluence, large and growing numbers of U.S. children and adolescents are failing to flourish. In particular, more and more young people are suffering from mental illness, emotional distress, and behavioral problems.” • “As a society we have been unable to respond effectively to these deteriorations in child and adolescent well-being.” Hardwired to Connect, pg. 8
Loss of communityfrom the National Commission on Children • “Eighty-eight percent of Americans who responded to the commission survey said it was harder to be a parent today than it used to be, 81 percent said parents did not spend enough time with their children, 76 percent said that parents often did not know where their children were. More than half of the respondents said children are worse off today than they were ten years ago with respect to moral and religious training and parental supervision and discipline. Fully a third said that children get less love and care from parents than they did a decade ago.” Sergiovanni, pg. 12
Loss of community • “When families fail, children sometimes withdraw inward, hardening their shells and insulating themselves from the outside. But the typical response if for them to create their own ‘families’ by turning to each other for support…Norms are important to young people, particularly to adolescents. In schools powerful and extensive norms systems develop that constitute a student subculture. Like any other culture these norms dictate not only how students should dress, the latest ‘in’ language, and other harmless rituals of school life but also how students should think, what they value and believe and how they should behave.” Sergiovanni, pg. 12
Abandonment “Society has systematically abandoned the young. Young people are desperate for an adult who cares…they have been forced by a personal sense of abandonment to band together and create their own world—separate, semi-secret, and vastly different from the world around them.” Chap Clark, Hurt
Belongingconsequences of loss NormalDistortedAbsent Attached Gang loyalty Unattached Loving Craves affection Guarded Friendly Craves acceptance Rejected Intimate Promiscuous Lonely Gregarious ClingingAloof Cooperative Cult vulnerable Isolated Trusting Overly dependent Distrustful “…the unmet needs of youth can be addressed by corrective relationships of trust and intimacy.” Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockern, p. 47
Loss of community “People who had bad health habits (such as smoking, poor eating habits, obesity, or alcohol use) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated. It is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than eat broccoli alone.”Ortberg
Thesis The context of schooling is an important part of the content of schooling. We need to be as intentional about the context as we are about the curriculum.
Significance of healthy community in schools “The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else. If the relationships between administrators and teachers are trusting, generous, helpful, and cooperative, then the relationships between teachers and students, between students and students, and between teachers and parents are likely to be trusting, generous, helpful, and cooperative. If, on the other hand, relationships between administrators and teachers are fearful, competitive, suspicious, and corrosive, then these qualities will disseminate throughout the school community.” Roland Barth
Climate and culture • Climate: the people perceive their work environment; the “feeling” of the classroom and hallways. • Culture: a set of (often) unarticulated “rules” about the way things are done; values, assumptions. Culture is expressed in artifacts (ceremonies, rituals, the physical appearance of hallways, classrooms, the curriculum); espoused values; underlying assumptions (about students, about relationships among teachers how discipline and conflict are handled).
Organizational culture • Organizational culture shapes how groups understand and carry out their mission. • Culture is created communally. • Leaders play a significant role in shaping culture.
Seven sources of system identity History: our founding and sustaining stories Beliefs and values: who we believe we are Vision: what we declare as our highest purpose Mission: the essence and reason for our existence Goals: mile markers for realizing our mission Shared knowledge: what we collectively know and share about our work in order to achieve our purpose Principles of belonging: “rules”, agreements, and commitments for learning and belonging together as a community The Power to Transform, p. 92
Leadership and vision “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to gather the wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Antoine de Saint Exupery
School imagesA continuum • How might each school image handle the issue of bullying? • Which kind of school would consider merit pay for employees?
Schools as communities • Relationships are both close and informal. • Individual circumstances count. • Acceptance is unconditional. • Relationships are cooperative. • Concerns of members are unbounded and therefore considered legitimate as long as they reflect needs. • Subjectivity is okay. • Emotions are legitimate. • Sacrificing one’s self-interest for the sake of other community members is common. • Members associate with each other because doing so is valuable as an end in itself.Sergiovanni
Schools as communities • “Life in organizations and life in communities are different in both quality and kind. In communities we create our social lives with others who have intentions similar to ours. In organizations relationships are constructed for us by others and become codified into a system of hierarchies, roles, and role expectations…Control is external.” • “Communities rely on norms, purposes, values, professional socialization, collegiality, and natural interdependence…a community of mind.” Sergiovanni
Grace-Full leaders/teachersGrace-Full Leadership. John C Bowling • Are more concerned with spirit than with style • Are covenantal rather than contractual • View people as ends, not means • Recognizable the changeable from the changeless • Seek significance, not just success • Are responsive as well as responsible • Are high touch • Maximize influence and minimize authority • Are passionate • Focus primarily on the body, not the head
Community Building “There is no recipe for community building---no correlates, no workshop agenda, no training package. Community cannot be borrowed or bought…If we are interested in community building, then we, along with other members of the proposed community, are going to have to invent our own practice of community. It is as simple, and as hard, as that.” Sergiovanni, p. 5
Redemptive leadership “Redemption through Christ restores our relationship with God and empowers us to once again fulfill our calling in creation as He intended. The distortions of the fall still plague us, but we are no longer bound or ruled by them. We are called to live according to the truth, and living redemptively means living by that truth.” Teaching Redemptively, p. xiv.
The kingdom of God • “Jesus went through Galilee…preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness…” Matt. 4:23 • “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’” Matt. 10:7 • “…strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Matt. 6:33 • “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news.” Mark 1:15 • “Our Father in heaven, ….your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” Matt. 6:9,10 (114 references to “the kingdom of God” in the first three gospels)
Redemptive leadership Making it down here like it is up there.
What is Biblical Community? Why do we need it?
Biblical community “The natural condition of life for human beings is reciprocal rootedness in others.” Dallas Willard
Biblical community “When God’s people are called out of the world, they are called into fellowship, into what the New Testament calls koinonia. We drink from a common cup of blessing; we break a common bread; we are connected as branches to a common vine; we are fingers and toes of a common body. We belong to Jesus and thus to each other.”Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
Biblical community “God’s aim in human history is the creation of an inclusive community of loving persons, with himself as its primary sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.” Dallas Willard
Biblical community “Christian community, life in the colony, is not primarily about togetherness. It is about the way of Jesus Christ with those whom he calls to himself. It is about disciplining our wants and needs in congruence with a true story, which gives us the resources to lead truthful lives. In living out the story together, togetherness happens, but only as a by-product of the main project of trying to be faithful to Jesus.” Resident Aliens, p.78
Biblical community “The Christian community has its roots in the future and its braches in the present.” The Good and Beautiful Community, p. 48 False narrative: Our needs matter the most. “The problem comes when the most important consideration, the dominant desire and the main focus of the community is its own success….This is often the first step toward spiritual death, and, ultimately, the demise of the community.” The Good and Beautiful Community, p. 68
Biblical community • “Communities become other-centered when they are steeped in the narrative of the kingdom of God. They know that their community is an outpost of the kingdom of God, a place where grace is spoken and lived for as long as is needed.” The Good and Beautiful Community, p. 72 • “The key is to put on the mind of Christ and to see others as he sees them: treasures.” The Good and Beautiful Community, p. 80
Biblical community We are all image bearers of God, but none of us reflects all of who God is. Only in community do we begin to reflect the amazing diversity and creativity of God. Community is like a rock polisher: transformative.
Community building “There is no recipe for community building---no correlates, no workshop agenda, no training package. Community cannot be borrowed or bought…If we are interested in community building, then we, along with other members of the proposed community, are going to have to invent our own practice of community. It is as simple, and as hard, as that.”p. 5, Sergiovanni
Building community “Building community requires the development of a community of mind represented in shared values, conceptions, and ideas about schooling and human nature. This mind structure provides the community and its members with purpose and meanings that are embodied in duties and obligations. Fulfilling these duties and obligations requires selfless behavior, altruistic love.” Sergiovanni, p. 32
Building community • “Community does not develop naturally. It requires tremendous struggle, and the answers to all the tough questions are in the struggle. The struggle, though, is essential because the children we teach will not care how much we know until they know how much we care…A school that is a true community is a group of individuals who have learned to communicate honestly with each other; who have built relationships that go deeper than their composures; and who have developed some significant commitment to rejoice together, mourn together, delight in each other, and make others’ conditions their own.” p. 203, Flynn and Innes
We need two eyes “The eye of the mind without the eye of the heart is heartless competence. The eye of the heart without the eye of the mind is mindless empathy.” Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff
Building community “To create community, start with an ideology, a set of conceptions about what schools are for, what is good for students, what makes sense about teaching and learning, and how everyone involved should live their lives together. Start, in other words, by developing a community of mind. Next, invite others to join this community of mind, relying on the persuasiveness of compelling ideas.” Sergiovanni, p. 86
Community of Mind A Purposeful Community
Becoming a purposeful community “The culture of a school arises from a network of shared ideologies, coherent sets of beliefs that tie people together and explain their work to them.” Sergiovanni, Building Community in Schools, p. 72 “Communities are defined by their centers of values, sentiments, and beliefs that provide the needed conditions for creating a sense of “we” from “I.” Sergiovanni, The Principalship, 5thed, p. 106
“Good” schools What’s a “good” school? The principle of purposeful coherence
Flourishing • What does it mean to “flourish?”
Becoming a purposeful community: collegiality • Mentor programs • Peer observations, including learning walks (rounds) • Team teaching or co-teaching • Common planning time • Common assessments • Common files for sharing assignments/activities • Become a community of learners • Shared leadership • Create an annual “best practices” book, with each teacher contributing a single page. Give all teachers a copy of the booklet at the end of the school year, and give it to new teachers as a welcome gift.
Nurturing school community “As a Christian teacher,…you consciously strive to forge your classroom into a learning community in which students experience the richness of living in a caring and supportive but also challenging environment.” Van Brummelen 2009, p. 179 From Nurturing School Community
A community of mind and heart • At your tables, brainstorm a list of factors that influence student engagement and learning. • Alone – Write down your top five and rank order them with #1 being the most important • In pairs – agree on the top five factors • In two pairs – agree on the top five • In four pairs, agree on the top five