Students participate in a variety of communities and need opportunities to practice the skills associated with being a good community member. Classrooms and schools provide such opportunities on a daily basis. In their book All Learning Is Social And Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom And Beyond, authors Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith identify the areas in which teachers and schools are able to provide support for community skill building (pp. 118-140):
- Respect for Others – Acknowledging the worth of all persons, demonstrating empathy, and operating within a culture of caring are all elements of respect demonstrated within the community. Teachers can support students as they develop these skills by modeling these behaviors and requiring that students in the classroom do the same.
- Courage – Persistence, reliance, and the ability to act in spite of one’s fears are components of courage. Teachers can support students as they develop these skills by speaking the language of courage, encouraging a growth mindset, and by sharing examples of courage from both literary works and real life.
- Ethical Responsibility – A sense of fairness, judgments regarding right and wrong, and the ability to accept responsibility are elements of ethical responsibility within a community. Teachers can support students as they develop these skills by demonstrating ethical responsibility, discussing ethical behaviors, and providing examples through literary works and real life. Students can also grow from age appropriate dialogues related to these elements.
- Civic Responsibility – Examination of community needs and working to improve the human condition within a community are part of civic responsibility. Teachers can support students as they develop these skills by holding classroom and school elections, examining examples for literary works and real life, and speaking the language of civic responsibility.
- Social Justice – Members of all communities have basic human rights, such as food, water, shelter, and the right to move. Members of all communities have a responsibility to protect all other community members from violations of these rights. Teachers can support students develop their understanding of basic human dignities and share examples of how communities protect their own members.
- Service – Service to others is a part of being a community member. Teachers can support students as they develop service skills through service learning projects and reflecting on the impact of those projects. Service can be rendered within the classroom, school, or community at large.
- Leadership – Author and speaker John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. With that definition in mind, it’s easy to see that all students have some level of influence within their peer group, classroom, school, and community. Teachers can support students as they develop leadership skills by knowing students and their areas of strength, identifying opportunities for students to lead within their areas of strength, and examining examples of leadership in action via literary works or real life stories.
As you prepare for next week, think about the opportunities available in your classroom to develop community-building skills. Be intentional in planning for student growth in this area. You and your students will benefit greatly from your efforts!