Schools are communities unto themselves. Of course most schools are a key part of a larger community and represent the families in the surrounding area. But schools have their own culture, environment, and day to day activity to create a uniquely different community. So in essence our students are community members of our schools. The question is are we fostering an environment where our students are active community members who take pride in their school? I see a lot of parallels here.
I live in a small community in the Sierras of Central California. The town has a rich history involving the Mono Indians, the logging industry, the forest service, and much more. Since the mill was closed in the 1990's, the town has suffered economically. We have been forced to change our direction and seek a new path and identity. This has challenged many individuals to put more time in keeping the town clean, safe, economically headed in the right direction, and inviting to other community members. From the tribe, to the artists, to the business owners, to the teachers, to the real estate agents, to the families, everyone has had to do their part to keep the town going in the right direction. However, in most cases, we are still very far behind in that effort. It feels overwhelming sometimes to picture how much work it will continue to take to keep our town on track. However, there is truly only one ingredient that is needed more than anything else. That is participation and action. We need people who care and people who have skills that they can bring to the table. We have a lot of people that can and do participate. But we need more and we need more variety.
So what does this have to do with education? Essentially, we are preparing students to be community members. We are preparing students who care about their school, are active in clubs, sports, activities, and in the classroom. We are preparing students who think critically to solve problems and students who are creative and skilled in the art of promoting and marketing. We are teaching students who work hard not because of an external reward, but to make a difference for others.
So many towns and schools have people who are not involved. Time is always a concern. But if we encourage and recruit our students to be active and involved, they will do the same in our community. They will live a life of purpose and a life that impacts the lives of others. Our future depends on schools producing these types of citizens. Whether it be a big city, a small town, a farming community, or a state, we need people who care. That starts in families and schools. You cannot force someone to care but someone who has been on a team, in an orchestra, part of an art show, or led a major project in the classroom, is going to know what it takes to make a community successful.
I have faith that my town will continue to grow and recover. I believe we will produce students with innovative minds and caring hearts to build our community back to what it was and beyond that. I have to believe that. That is why I work in education. Leading is Teaching.