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[Educator Network] Building Your School Community

[Educator Network] Building Your School Community

When schools engage families and neighbors in meaningful ways, they gain support, and in turn reinforce healthy behaviors in multiple settings—at home, in school, in out-of-school programs, and in the community.

A community is created by and involves many different participants working together to build trust and support. When a school looks to build a strong community, it must include all of them to get a successful integration and support. Let’s take a look at some of the bodies who with the power of teamwork, communication, and passion, can help take your school community from good to great.

Neighborhood

To involve the surrounding community, schools can utilize the resources they have close by. Not only can you promote the talents of local businesses and individuals, but you can also get families excited about your school’s group activities.

Celebrate Contributors: To get more families to your events, talk up the benefits or freebies when publicizing them, and be sure to mention when outside organizations help out. For example, recruit the library or local businesses to contribute to hosting a family reading night, where families can get a free book and parents can learn ways to support reading at home. Have the library participate or reach out to local business for book donations.

Connect New People: Bring together different groups for a common project. See if the school Dads Club and choir parents can work together to serve food at Bingo Night. Connect families who may not have met each other. Pair new volunteers with veteran families who know the school in and out. Look beyond the usual fundraiser or family event to something new that will bring in families who might not otherwise participate.

Get Creative: Research incentive programs, be creative. Offer opportunities to work with and alongside local business, other schools, local artists—there are possibilities.

Additionally, with help from school leaders, community agencies and groups can collaborate with schools to provide valuable resources for student health and learning. In turn, schools, students, and their families can contribute to the community through service-learning opportunities and by sharing school facilities with community members.

Students

An essential part of building a strong network with enthusiastic of participating members must be the students. Having them part of the conversation is critical. After all, they make up the core component of your school community!

Take a Whole-Child Approach: Emphasize common purposes and ideals that strive to develop the whole individual, not just academics. In addition to academic achievement, schools with a strong sense of community, stress the development of qualities essential to good character and citizenship, such as fairness, concern for others, and personal responsibility.

Find the Right Opportunities: Provide developmentally appropriate opportunities for independence and influence. When students have a say in establishing the agenda and climate for the classroom it creates buy in and a sense of fairness.

Teachers

Besides students, educators are the other main ingredient to any school community. Collaborating and contributing to the school and classrooms are not just part of the job; they are teachers’ responsibilities. Teaching is not a nine-to-five job where you can clock in and clock out at the same time every day without a thought to things being left undone; it’s a vocation where building relationships and being involved is just as important as instruction.

Provide Input: Tell the community how you can be supported. Funding for the classroom and tools can build a connection especially if there is a transparent process of application and review. If you are successful in getting the funding, share the project or passion back.

Encourage Collaboration: Having your teachers work together can significantly impact community. More experienced teachers will be recognized for their best teaching strategies. Younger teachers will be given validation that the things that they are trying, and new techniques and knowledge they can bring to the table. Leverage professional learning communities to create a more formal structure for collaboration.

Reclaim the Weekend: A full life includes time for recreation, hobbies, personal relationships, and downtime. Plus being out in the community for these activities, when we can do that safely again, builds connections and humanity.

Administration

Administrators can support educators—and by extension, the whole community—by nurturing the physical and mental health of both school students and faculty. Set the tone from the top by celebrating success and achievement, acknowledging hard work and effort at every level, and establishing strong lines of communication throughout the community.

Prioritize Health and Wellness: Healthy school members are more productive and less likely to be absent. Take the time to build a strong staff community. Filling teachers’ cups with positive interactions and specific praise from both colleagues and administrators will help them feel cared for and providing resources for student social emotional learning can help reduce stress so students can recognize school as a safe place where they ca focus and learn. By extension, this will give your team more strength in their ability to care for their students, and your students a stronger shot at success.

Plan Smart: Use community input throughout your school or district planning cycles. Start by interviewing last year’s new teachers. What helped them at the start of the year? What do they wish they had or wish they’d known at the beginning of the year? What suggestions do they have for supporting new teachers? Then survey the community. Prove that feedback can be put into action.

Community groups and local businesses can create partnerships with schools, share resources, and volunteer to support. Schools, students, and their families can contribute to the community through student activities and by sharing school facilities with community members.

It truly does take a village to raise a child; but the needs of the village must be met, too. When school community members work together, amazing things can happen. Federal, state, and local governing will help, but it is the community that will nurture local schools. By working together with our neighborhood business, leaders and families, pride, understanding and a better stronger learning environment can be established.

winnie.oleary's picture
Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently a Curriculum Manager for Edmentum. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she finds something new and exciting every day.