At the heart of every good community lies the motivation and commitment behind a group of united people, people who share a common purpose. Several questions will be presented during this article which highlight firstly; what is a community? How do we know if a community is successful? What role do we play as educators in leading community-school initiatives? And finally, how do we overcome non-conformity to create cohesion and vision amongst ‘hard to reach’ participants within the community?
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 Edition of UKEdMagazine
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As an experienced teaching practitioner the challenge that underpins successful collaboration in sharing beliefs and vision with parents, carers, business leaders, high profile public figures and local authority members would be to share values and experiences. The ones that ensure equality of opportunity through education is the binding agent in the foundations of a modern and enlightened society.
Education to me is the most effective way to get it ‘right for every child’ and allow them to reach their potential. Driving social justice through education opens doors to encourage learners to realise this potential. With ‘our’ classroom, children are provided with learning opportunities to examine how a good education is the passport to a good life. They learn skills to embrace challenges and change in a very diverse global world and understand that the skills learned in ‘real life’ situations result in employment with meaning, where they can reflect on their community and sense of belonging. Sharing a common purpose from a young age lends itself to how they conform as well-balanced citizens.
Creating and maintaining links through parental engagement requires a great deal of thought and breaking down barriers between home and school can be daunting for teachers and parents alike. Many discussions that have taken place with parents over recent years, has identified disengagement as being the result of poor or negative experiences during their own school days. This for many parents is the major barrier facing them when engaging with schools. Curriculum reform has changed perceptions in how educational interactions were once teacher-directed in the acquisition of skills through a very rigid education prescription and now onus is very much placed on pupils directing their own learning and how they are encouraged to become engaged in stimulating ‘real-life’ learning opportunities where critical thinking and problem solving skills are required.
Parents are required to be aware of their child’s out of school experiences to enable them to use these as the basis for facilitating future learning, likewise children and teachers need to understand the value behind these experiences as to ensure all barriers are removed with a clearer indication of ‘home-life’ if structured learning opportunities are in use. Ways to overcome all barriers will inevitably cultivate an openness to communicate without prejudice and create opportunities to invite families into the classroom to spend time ‘sharing the learning’. This at Bannockburn Primary is known as Family Time!!
Family Time occurs once per month when parents, carers and grandparents are invited into class to participate alongside their children. Each month during the visits, which are teacher-led, consist of literacy or numeracy themed lessons. Feedback from these sessions is very positive with a very high turnout. Parents often feel rejuvenated and value their new learning experiences.
Tapping into the skills and expertise of the wider community….
Viewing the ‘community’ as one of the most valuable resources available in schools, helps children to acquire important new concepts that sends positive messages about education and the work of community figures. Sharing a vision and forging positive relationships with the community highlights the ways in which the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence builds on ‘real-life’ experiences, pupil directed learning and creating active learning communities that enhance pupil’s learning and how teaching can be delivered in order to ensure learning happens effectively. Engaging community groups in turn would allow for specific learning to occur out-with the classroom setting and highlighting the role in which the teacher plays in restructuring routines and recognising that student ability is contingent on their mental and physical well-being and that of their families. Bridging gaps between school and the community not only develop teacher’s awareness of the local community but are meeting the broader needs of families through the provision of non-educational opportunities and also open doors by expressing a desire to unite and assist community members. This invite again breaking down barriers.
The community is not limited to parents and the immediate neighbourhood but those who are active in business. Interactions from all are depended on not for the need of concrete knowledge and expertise but also for commitment and advocacy in supporting the efforts that are required for raising attainment and driving school improvement. Creating a shared vision and encouraging everyone to be self-reflective ensures that a ‘community’ is formed and programmes of change are challenged collectively for the good of the children.
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