I joined Twitter a couple of years ago. My account sat inactive for a while. I wasn’t really sure how to navigate everything, I just didn’t get what was so great about it. After attending a workshop one day, where Twitter was heralded as the ultimate professional development, I tried again. I got my feet wet little by little. I followed presenters, authors, people I met at workshops. I lurked at a few chats, before courageously tweeting into the conversation. Then, someone followed me, and someone else. I started joining more weekly chats, adding tiny bits to the conversations, and someone even retweeted me (yay…I must be smart!).
The more I became involved, the more I contributed, the more I felt like I had a place in this online community.
Why did Twitter become a daily habit for me? Because I knew I belonged to something big. Something important. Something that was changing my professional life.
And I thought, if belonging holds such importance for me in my professional life, then it surely plays a role in the educational lives of my students.
We think that everyone has a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. A family, a group of friends, a sport’s league, maybe a political party. The same holds true when students enter our classrooms. Although we focus on and assess individual progress, we know that there is great value in having students feel they are part of a larger learning community when they walk through our doors.
Teachers are excellent at bringing students together in the first few weeks of the school year: ice breakers, team-building activities, morning meetings, you name it. We want our students to feel accepted while they are in our care. Acceptance is the foundation for our classroom communities.
But it’s only one step in ensuring that our students really feel like they are part of the community.
Students must be able to contribute to feel like they truly belong.
For the students who always have their hands up, this is an easy piece of the puzzle. But what of the struggling learner? What of the introvert who dreads the thought of 25 pairs of eyes staring, waiting?
What are the ways that we are making contribution possible for all of our students?
We plan to do a lot of thinking and writing about the structures that support contribution. Immediately, read aloud comes to mind, so we’ll be posting our thoughts on that soon.
Belonging isn’t just a feeling. It requires action.
Let’s move our students from casual observers, looking for the tweet button, to active members who know that contribution is at the very heart of belonging.
For all of the day’s Slice of Life stories, head over to Two Writing Teachers.
~ Jen and Darla