Friday, October 13, 2017

What is a Positive School Community?

The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology describes community as “people having something in common, although there is much debate about precisely what that thing is”(1).  Another article describes community as “a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action”(2). Others contend that a community is a group of people sharing a common geographical area, however many argue against a proximity requirement, stating that technology has created virtual communities that are as fulfilling as “real” communities (3).  I recently posed the question, “What is community?”, to a class of students at Venture High School. Through discussion, they crafted the following definitions: "a group of people working toward a common good,” “a group with similar values that support each other,” and “a feeling of safety and welcoming.”

Obviously, creating a singular definition of community is difficult, but looking at the etymology of the word might be helpful, at least with regard to the purposes of this paper. The latin word, “ com ”, means to be “with, together, or complete.” It is the root for many significant words, such as communication, compatible, and combine. Now, if we take “com” and add another Latin word, “ ┼źnus ”, which means “one” and we can create the word, “ communis ” which means “shared in common.” From communis is derived our modern day word, community. However, a more literal translation would suggest, “to come together as one.” This core definition of the word seems to be present in most explanations of its meaning.

Simply, community is a group of individuals unified behind a common purpose. From the many definitions given, we see some common traits that can be applied to our definition of community, traits which foster unity. I believe the following are the four most prominent characteristics of  community, especially as it relates to creating a positive school community that supports student success:

● A positive school community provides regular opportunities for interaction (communication, collaboration, etc.)
● A positive school community fosters a feeling of belonging and identity
● A positive school community provides social control of behaviors (norms, moral motivators, etc.)
● A positive school community provides each individual an opportunity to contribute.

As educators, we should be aware of these characteristics and look for opportunities to build learning experiences into our curricula and the school culture.

References:

(1) "Community : The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology : Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology Online".  www.sociologyencyclopedia.com . Retrieved 2017-04-14.
(2) MacQueen, K. M., McLellan, E., Metzger, D. S., Kegeles, S., Strauss, R. P., Scotti, R., . . . Trotter, R. T. (2001, December). What Is Community? An Evidence-Based Definition for Participatory Public Health. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446907/
(3) Humphrey, M. (2015, April 06). Is Online Community Real, 'Virtual' Or Something Else? Retrieved April 15, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelhumphrey/2015/04/06/is-online-community-real-virtual-or-something-else/#5f874f493c62