1.3

COMMUNITY BUILDING

Finding things that unite and bind us together as a group, while at the same time respecting and celebrating our differences.  Embracing the interests, experiences, and goals of the community to shape the learning environment and gain ownership of the learning experience.

The key questions for this pillar are:

  • How are we getting to know the people with whom we are learning?
  • How are we creating a sense of responsibility and accountability among our community of learners?

Think about it. Have you ever gotten to the end of an entire semester or to the end of a class and realized that you don’t know the names of everyone with whom you shared that learning space?  Or realized that there are other learners in the room with whom you have never engaged in conversation? Or realized that you spent the entire semester sitting next to, sharing, and collaborating only with the people you knew going into the course?

Building and sustaining a community among learners is integral to teaching peace. Community allows learners to take advantage of all the experiences and knowledge that exists in the space as opposed to relying solely on the teacher for information. Community creates shared accountability and commitment to reaching goals set by the community. Community creates safe learning environments where students are willing to take risks and be authentic with one another.  Community creates an atmosphere where all learners feel welcome and appreciated.

In short, community building creates the fertile ground out of which deep learning and peace can flourish.

Reflection Question: What is one of the strongest and healthiest communities of which you are or have been a part (scholastic or other)?  What does or did that community do to build and sustain itself?

Additional Resources:

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14 thoughts on “1.3

  1. Two summers ago I was a participant on an altbreak trip to Dharamsala, and this past summer I led the trip. I feel so connected to both of these groups because I know that I can trust them. They have seen me at my best and worst and supported me through it all.

  2. Maria Schneider

    One community that I feel most connected to is my church community at home in Minneapolis. Both my parents have worked there at some point in time, they were married there, I was raised there, return when I’m home, and even spend holidays with my church family. Although my family has been members there for a very long time, what connects me most to the church is their commitment to social change and social justice. We are reconciling church (meaning we support the right for EVERYONE to get married), we were the first church to integrate with a black church in the 1950s and now have partnerships with various communities around the world for our dedication to social change. Being in this space makes me proud, and I know that everyone around me has similar values based on equality, service and respect for others.

  3. Ki’tay: I am currently a fellow with Young People For, and I can truly say I have never been in a place that focused on community building in such an effective manner. For the fellowship we attended regional trainings and during that time we focused on intersectionality of social justice topics and (in a very broad sense) creating a better world. By the end of the training we seemed to be a family and had made true vulnerable connections with individuals. In hindsight, I believe the community sustained itself by continually reflecting and evaluating their work. Each night, they took an evaluation of the day and we filled out numerous surveys. By the next morning, they would implement the various notes and feedback we had shared.

  4. Working in CTE/CTRL was one of the healthiest communities I have been a part of. We all trusted each other, learned from each other and were friends with each other. We had great respect for each other’s skills and were close enough to share them. We organized hang outs outside of work which really helped our relationships in the office. These get-togethers included the staff and managers so though we respected our superiors they were also “part of the gang” instead of outsiders.

  5. One of the strongest scholastic communities of which I have been a part was my senior thesis in literature class. Everyone in the class had a common goal (to write a thesis paper) and it was something fairly new to all of us. Through many weeks of workshopping and discussion, we all learned about each other and our projects, and became able to identify the strengths in all of us as individuals. I always imagined writing a thesis as a solitary activity, but it turned out to be a very beneficial collaborative effort. I will remember the collaboration and sharing of ideas more than the actual paper.

  6. It sounds very trite, but one of the strongest communities I belong to is the group of women that make up my sorority at AU. While the practices that build, guide and shape the Greek system may have their flaws, by whatever magic, the relationships I have with my sorority sisters are some of the closest I’ve had in my life. We sustain these friendships (some might say they’re artificial) by treating every sister with a very high level of respect and commitment. Each is admired for whatever trait she brings to the group as a whole. We all identify on some level as a member of our sorority, and find a lot of comfort, pride and responsibility comes with that identification.

  7. I cannot help but think of my undergraduate education when considering an answer to this reflection question. I went to a large state school, and though I would not change much of the education, I became increasingly aware that there was not a greater learning community in which I was a part. Classes were large and oftentimes impersonal. Instead of even the relationship with the professor, there was a relationship with the teaching assistant.

    The healthiest community I have been a part of was in my work with an interdisciplinary program in graduate school that was actually outside my own. With multiple perspectives stemming from multiple disciplines, it was easy to see where students brought so much of their individuality and individual interests to the table. This, to me, met the goal of creating a greater community wherein the individuality of its members is not compromised. This was decidedly different than my undergraduate experience of sitting in a stadium with 90,000 people.

  8. Beth Jimerson. Again, some of the strongest community experiences I have are in my education courses and my training course at AU. My education courses at Woodring College in Bellingham, WA were taught largely by actual classroom teachers who were very conscious of creating a community learning environment. I believe they incorporated a lot of the skills that they used for teaching elementary school with us and were very encouraging and available. There was not a lot of lecture but more discussion and hands-on activities in which we learned and practiced positive teaching skills. I organized a lot of study groups outside of class for all who were interested and we collaborated on sharing ideas with each other. I wasn’t really a part of any sort of community outside of school growing up besides my group of friends. I took dance lessons and played the violin in private lessons and in an orchestra but those experiences never really felt like a community- more of an individual activity done with others. I had to create my own sense of community by befriending people in those situations on my own. I think that those experiences could have been much richer had someone organizing them taken the time to build community. Currently in my position as graduate assistant for my program I am constantly working on creating community through a newly proposed student board dealing with issues relating to our program, and also outside of school by organizing social events that will bring us closer together on a more personal level.

  9. Richard Cambridge: I have been an economist for 40 years working as part of a community of an economic development practitioners in the World Bank Group. This community is a special and peculiar one – very difficult to penetrate, but nurturing once included and accepted. The “entrance” requirement is typically high academic credentials from prestigious institutions or working experience at the higher levels of government. This artificial and bogus admissions ticket leads to rather closed and inauthentic relationships at the beginning. However, as one begins to undertake the special “missions” of the World Bank (typically teams visiting low-income countries or regions of countries), an experience-based bond is built among and between members of this community. When one is witness to some if the horrors of abject poverty on human beings, seek to understand the causes, and as important, find remedies or mitigation measures to alleviate these conditions, an emotional bond and passion is created which sustains this community. The so-called Knowledge Bank which the World Bank now purports to be is built on a foundation of experience sharing from all parts of the world. Sharing stories of despair and hope, and some understanding of how the human spirit can overcome extreme odds.

  10. Leah Thompson

    One of the healthiest communities of which I am a part is my “church family” community at the Baptist Church I attend regularly at home. I have gone to this same church since my parents began taking me as a baby. To me this community is a family because I have grown up with these people, matured alongside the members my age, and admired the elder members of the church. The church builds itself with outreach programs seeking to bring in new members and sustains itself by providing programs for members of all ages and for people with varied interests. There are opportunities to devote time, money, or spiritual gifts (whichever one chooses) and everyone feels welcomed and appreciated. The best part about this community is that the sense of community extends beyond the church walls and beyond Sunday morning services. All members are committed to helping one another in times of need. I have never doubted that my church family could provide emotional, physical, or spiritual help for me if I ever was in need of such.

  11. One community to which I still feel very strongly connected (even three years after leaving) is my community of Peace Corps Volunteers from Guinea. Our community was accepting of every volunteer coming into the country and veteran volunteers really went out of their way to assist those starting out. There was an understanding that every other volunteer (and we had over 100) genuinely wanted to support you through victories and hardships. We lived together through training and saw each other frequently throughout the duration of our time spent there.

  12. Daniel Knoll: Growing up I spent a considerable amount of time at my synagogue going to Religious School. I was never the person that saw services as terribly important, but what was important was the community that was the synagogues school. My mother was very involved in the executive organization of the Temple, and my family constantly volunteered and helped throughout the community. As a result, everybody knew who I was. As a community they worked together to make sure that I had a positive experience within the religious school by working together and caring how I was doing enough to listen when I had a problem and realize when I needed a new challenge. By understanding me as a person, my teachers could help me grow as a person.

  13. I feel most connected to the community I developed amongst my feel English teachers at Ballou SHS. We are forced to rely on one another for a variety of needs: professional, emotional, academic, and otherwise. We are all aware that we have *chosen* to be where we are right now, for a range of reasons and motivations. Regardless of our impetus, we move together to get things done. I respect my colleagues for their hard work and innovation. I respect them for their belief in education and pressing on. It threads us in community with one another.

  14. One community that I am most connected to is the debate community. I’m still amazed that I’m still close contact with so many people from this community, from around the country and around the globe, even after “leaving” debate several years ago. This community is so strong because of the shared interest in positive competition, the level of difficult of the activity, and the passion to constructively criticize what happens in the world. More specifically, I am connected to a lot of Pacific Northwest debaters because of the shared interest in critical and performative debate styles that seek to address issues of inequality, social oppression, and conflict.

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