Education is collaborative. In order for us to achieve the best, we share ideas and work together to find new ways in which we can engage with our students, our team and our parents and ensure that everyone is reaching their full potential. Being at school is a unique environment. It’s a sense of community that some may not experience on such a large scale once they either graduate or leave the profession and it’s one that we should embrace and utilise whilst we’re in it.
As humans, we want to feel safe and connected with those around us - we seek out supportive relationships and want to feel a sense of belonging. As a school, it is our duty to ensure that we provide this sense of community to all stakeholders. As a race, we bond with the people and institutions that help satisfy these needs. If we’re instilling a sense of community and fulfilling these basic needs for teachers, students and parents, they in turn will have positive feelings towards the school. The result? Students who want to learn, parents at ease with our capabilities as educators and teachers who enjoy coming to work.
Instilling a sense of community means engaging with our parents and involving them in school life. We know that when parents are engaged in their child’s education, it has a positive impact on learning outcomes. In order to engage parents we need to provide them with a channel that allows them be involved and exposes them to the sense of community you enforce within school.
PTA meetings are an important aspect of school life for parents, it’s a route that allows them to have a say in what happens to the school, voice their opinions on current processes in place and provide suggestions to issues that may arise. Publicising these and encouraging parents to attend can help to greaten your school’s sense of community with parents. It also introduces parents to one another enabling them to form bonds and relationships.
Social media is a tool that can be embraced to help reinforce your sense of community to parents. Providing updates on what’s going on and uploading pictures and reviews of trips and projects students have worked on, exposes parents to more than what they may hear from their child and can give them comfort in knowing that you’re doing all that you can to make their child’s time at school safe, fun, engaging and educational.
In a profession that is undeniably difficult and under a lot of scrutiny, especially following on from the recent budget cuts, it is more important than ever to cascade this feeling of community down to our teachers. Enforcing the power of praise on your staff is a simple and low effort way to make your staff feel valued, help to build relationships with them and create the feeling of community.
When focussing on education as a whole, we are lucky enough to be represented by a number of organisations, including the super union created by members of National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) forming to create the National Education Union (NEU) which will represent up to 450,000 teachers and education workers. The forming of such a union will give our educators an even stronger voice and sense of community, establishing a union so large that it will give more weight to what they’re communicating and hopefully make Government stand to listen to us on such topics as the retention crisis, teacher workload, Grammar Schools and budget cuts.
Within education we’re lucky to be in an environment where we can celebrate events that go on in the world and make them beneficial to our students by educating them on these subjects - Earth Day, World Book Day and Black History Month are just some calendar dates that provide us with a means to exercise a sense of community and collaboration as teachers by working together to celebrate these events and to get our students motivated.
Establishing a sense of community comes hand in hand with bonding together as a staff body. It’s simple logic to know that when people working together get along and enjoy one another’s company, that it makes a job more enjoyable.
Whenever a visitor comes into our offices, they comment on the energy and buzz - we’re fortunate enough to have a group of people who are not only dedicated to their job but also get along, and we can owe this to the sense of community we’ve established over the years through very simple things such as having a weekly roundups where we applaud people’s achievements, arranging internal team nights out, setting up community yoga, entering sports teams as an office and finding a local pub. A lot of these initiatives have been set-up outside of leadership but as a member of SLT or HoD if you instigate a team event the others are likely to snowball as we’ve experienced.
Studies have shown that students in a school that has a strong sense of community are more likely to be more academically motivated, but perhaps more importantly than this, a driving force behind implementing this sort of environment should be to help your students to feel safe so that they enjoy coming to school. This can be upheld by your school ethos which we encourage our staff and student body to abide by. If as a school you can meet these needs of your students, they will become committed to these norms and live by your ethos.
In order to gauge how well your school is at following your ethos and making students feel welcome, issuing simple anonymous questionnaires that ask how well students are at helping one another out, if they feel their class is inclusive and if they feel comfortable talking to their teachers about issues either at home or in school can give you an insight into how well you are actually doing on this front.
Actions taken to help make your school a community can be simple. The promotion of collaboration between students will help them to get along with one another and understand the value in working together, in turn, helping them to develop fulfilling relationships with their peers and teachers. Encouraging the running of student-led activities is not only an opportunity to help students develop transferable life skills, but also helps to bring the whole school together, be that through volunteering programmes, talent shows or bake sales - these all contribute to a feeling of togetherness.
Establishing a strong sense of community within your school isn’t something that happens overnight and is something that needs continuing attention to ensure that it is upkept by all stakeholders, but ensuring a sense of belonging and togetherness will have a positive impact on your students’ education, your staff’s happiness and the overall performance of your school.
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