In a tight-knit group of 10 to 15 adolescents, it is imperative to create a meaningful community in order for the success of each individual. The sense of community is one of the most important aspects of our Adolescent Community – it’s even in the name!
When you think back to your middle school experience, do you remember being connected? Do you remember being able to have difficult conversations with your peers? Do you remember always being treated with respect, even when others disagreed with your viewpoints? We work so hard to make sure that all of this and more becomes part of the new middle school experience.
Why are we working so hard to build community?
Building community early in the year helps to renew bonds from last year and helps to create new ones. Obtaining mutual respect and a spirit of collaboration creates a welcoming environment for new as well as returning students.
When community exists, each child feels valued. A sense of shared purpose unites and working together to accomplish goals is the priority. Our goals are BIG and require the effort of all of our members. Rather than differences providing separation, they are valued as individual strengths as we that make us stronger and better.
One of the most interesting concepts in our classroom is self-discipline and freedom. A strong sense of community is one of the most effective ways to manage individual freedom. The good of the community balanced against individual desires provides tough daily challenges that assist in developing the necessary discipline to manage the freedom offered in the environment. These skills translate into real life and prepare us to take our role as community citizens seriously.
How do we build community?
We play games and have fun together. We share lunch and work with each other, mixing our groups with an emphasis on getting to know new friends. We interview and find out more about each other by sharing experiences, stories, traditions, and even the accomplishments we are proud to have achieved. We make time to appreciate each other and learn how to recognize others as well as ourselves.
In our community, we learn to problem solve, developing the skills necessary to take care of ourselves as well as others. Pride results as solutions and resolutions are found. Resolutions result and all occurring with direction or intervention of the adult, only when necessary. The students have created a list of rights and responsibilities that empowers, as well and guides, acceptable behavior in our environment. All of our students contribute to creating, as well as enforcing, our shared vision of community.
Grace and Courtesy work also serves a role in learning how to act in a community. The older children offer lessons on greeting peers each morning with a firm handshake and making eye contact, greeting visitors with a cup of tea, preparing snack and serving one another, assisting each other by modeling how to ask for help and how to even say no and offer feedback positively and respectfully.
Additionally, we each have jobs in the classroom, contributing and demonstrating responsibility for the environment. Daily class meetings establish our shared goals for the day and create the forum for discussion when conflicts arise. The students run the gatherings so all classroom concerns are heard and addressed through student-led discussions and strategies are modeled strategies for teaching peaceful resolution.
The natural extension of building community within our classrooms is to reach outward. We start within our own campus. Answering the request for help from guides, staff members, or students alike is a highlight of our week. Participating in the work of the WHOLE community makes us feel proud. We experience on a small scale that we can create change. We can act individually or as a group – we DO make a difference! As the students mature within the Upper Elementary and Adolescent Community, opportunities to serve the occur outside the confines of the school. Engaging in the “real world”, the older students are ready to truly actively participate as independent and conscientious citizens, becoming a part of programs and issues far greater than themselves.
Community and service to our community are tenants of our Montessori education and values that will resonate throughout our lives. The rippling effects of a Montessori education can be felt in high school, college, and beyond.
We are proud to be Community!