Sorry for the delay, I spent some extra time ruminating on that last post and some new experiences.
So, this is kind of the meat & potatoes of this concept. The last one was more of a base building effort for the uninitiated. Many in the education community likely found it filled with givens and few Earth-shattering concepts. For this one, I hope to share some new concepts on how the community can support learning success.
The role of the community has been overlooked in most areas. The relationship between the community and the schools is a reciprocal one. Both would benefit from the kind of partnerships I will discuss. Notice these groups in the graphic above do not directly touch learning, but that doesn’t mean they could not. These groups should be active filling in some gaps at cash-strapped, time-crunched schools. Their presence and work would feed benefits back them. Ultimately this is necessary for the health, vitality and longevity of a community.
As I mentioned before, schools should aim at educating all students and the whole child. That means meeting the academic, physical and emotional needs of those students. Schools are continually being asked to do more with less money and fewer staff members. This is where it becomes important to partner with the community. For the school, it means meeting those whole-child needs and possibly more effectively reaching all students with less expenditure. For those community groups it can bring unique benefits back to them. I will lay out those responsibilities and benefits for each group.
Community leaders: This refers to both elected and unofficial leaders. The definition of elected leaders speaks for itself. Unofficial leaders would consist of politicos, active personalities (every community has them), neighborhood watch presidents, HOA leaders and even media figures. These players are necessary in many ways. They should be working towards betterment of education by supporting ordinances, laws and budgets that support learning in the community. Elected officials should spend time with the principals and teachers to find out what laws best support learning. Principals, teachers and other educational leaders should be involved in political arenas to support their schools. Community leaders should also be involved in encouraging students to stay in school and encouraging parents to be involved. Parents must also be involved in the political arena by communicating their desires and needs to community leaders.
Business leaders: This refers to business leaders of all levels. Both small and large businesses should get involved in academics. By supporting education through monetary or other means is beneficial for both institutions. Why schools win is obvious. Businesses’ gains are two-fold. An educated consumer base means better-paying jobs, which means more money to spend at businesses. It also means less crime, saving them money on security needs and loss dollars. Depending on local rules, if you can make your support visible in the school it would be great marketing. Another good way to be involved would be internship or work-study programs. Schools should be quick to facilitate these for students that are interested.
Faith-based/Non-profit Organizations: This is one area where the ball has been dropped. These organizations claim to be watching out for the betterment of the community. Yet many ignore this gaping hole of needs. School is a place, perhaps the only place, where needs surface for those who have no way to express those needs. Elementary students often don’t know or have a way to ask for basic needs like shoes or a new coat. I think this would be a great reason to have a cache of basics available at school. Bookbags, coats, shoes and some clothing would be a great start. There could be a contact for the school to call to access funds or a stockpile of goods. This is one good way of meeting the needs of the whole child. If they can feel safe, cared for and their needs are met then maybe they can concentrate better in class. By taking care of children in the community they fulfill their directives. Doing so increases their presence and visibility in the community and would likely lead to more donations.
Creative Community: This is another way of meeting the needs of the whole child. Members of this community could supplement or provide art and music programs for underfunded schools. Preferably these would be during school, but after school would also be acceptable. Even if it is not a full-fledged program they could reach out to offer assistance to teachers. This could take the form of providing a lesson on a certain type of music that corresponds to a lesson or story. They could also help with a craft project for a few days. Whatever their talent it can be used to help students with their creative outlets. This makes for healthier students and communities.
In the following weeks I plan to touch on each area in greater detail. I am sure some communities may already be taking some of these measures. I hope I’ve given you some good ideas on how to build a healthier community of learners.