In his seminal book Building Community in Schools(1994), Dr. Thomas J. Sergiovanni, a senior fellow for the Center for Educational Leadership at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, makes such a case:
“Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort. Whatever else is involved—improving teaching, developing sensible curriculum, creating new forms of governance, providing more authentic assessment, empowering teachers and parents, and increasing professionalism—it must rest on the foundation of community building.”
School reform focuses so much on all these individual aspects of education that it misses the mark on what should be driving all of them. All human beings want to belong; we seek out spaces where we feel safe and are embraced and valued. Just look outside a classroom window onto a school playground to see how much happier the students are who are playing together in groups compared to the children standing alone by the gate poking in the dirt. Sit on a professional development session for teachers who are truly interested in the topic and who feel confident in expressing their opinions and in knowing their leadership will listen. Talk to a parent whose student is having trouble in reading and who checks in regularly with the teacher about the student’s progress. Members of strong communities are engaged. They care.
Schools are the training ground for life. Offering a productive, supportive, and positive environment ensures student success and teacher satisfaction. Test scores and graduation rates are the end product of education. The learning starts with community.
“Community can help teachers and students be transformed from a collection of “I’s” to a collective of “We,” thus providing them with a unique and enduring sense of identity, belonging, and place.” (Sergiovanni)