Over the next month, this blog will feature excerpts and guest posts surrounding my latest book, Leading Connected Classrooms- The Heart and Soul of Teaching and Learning. This book is designed for teachers, teacher leaders, and building leaders who are looking to bring excellence to the learning in their schools.
Friendships, helping hands, and partnerships are all very different ways for the community to connect with a classroom. Each is important, and each has its place. The best teachers find the right niche for everyone interested in playing a part of the students’ learning in the classroom. Friends come for Grandparents’ Day, the Valentine’s Day parties, and the poetry slam. They show interest in the learning of the classroom by being present and showcasing to kids that adults care about their learning. They cheer. They clap, and they take pictures at the band and orchestra concerts. These friends in learning support the classroom beyond the school day, during the 18 hours when students aren’t in school, by asking questions, purchasing supplies, and reminding the students about the importance of school. Friends of the classroom are so essentially important.
Helping hands go beyond friendship. They take an interest in a project, an idea, or the charisma of a teacher, and they begin to support classrooms with their time, talents, and treasures. Helping hands donate shovels for the service learning project, open their doors for students to visit their place of work, and make donations to a classroom that is doing work that they feel is excellent. This group of people brings support to classrooms in times of ever-shrinking resources, and they are essential for excellent teachers to attempt courageous things. Helping hands can also influence classes through donations to school foundations, contributing to capital campaigns, and giving to organizations such as Donors Choose.
Beyond these two groups, there are deep partnerships cultivated by classroom leaders and school leaders. Partnerships, unlike friendships and helping hands, are individuals and groups that are missional about joining students in their efforts to grow into productive citizens. This often means long-term commitments to classrooms in a variety of ways. Partners are willing to sacrifice part of their mission to amplify the work of the classroom. They are willing to work in concert with students on projects, pushing aside their age and wisdom to learn and grow with students. Great partners listen and accept that their work may never make the headlines or help in marketing their company. Classroom partners have a greater sense of community, and they know that their efforts will help grow their communities into more vibrant and sustainable places. Classrooms need these partners. They need deep sustainable relationships.