How to Raise a Happy and Healthy Community

During curriculum night at my daughter’s preschool this week I was struck by some of the recurring themes they had around building community. It reminded me of a brief exchange with Rachel Happe recently following this tweet:Both our preschoolers are in emergent learning or child-led programs and I mentioned I should reread positive discipline to polish up my community management skills. There are so many parallels between the negative tweeter or blogger, forum member etc. and the misdirected child; they both need to be heard, be involved in the solution, share their ideas and they quickly become happy contributing members of the family/community.

I took the basics of the philosophy and updated them from child POV to more of a community-focused. Do you think your community meets these criteria?

  1. Helps community members feel a sense of connection. (A sense of belonging and significance)
  2. Is mutually respectful and encouraging. (Guidelines are kind but firm and people know what to expect)
  3. Is effective long term. (Considers what the member is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his community – and what to do in the future to thrive within this or the greater community/industry. Are you facilitating continual growth and learning experiences?)
  4. Supports important social and community skills. (Respect, concern for others, problem solving, and cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the larger community.)
  5. Invites the community member to discover how capable they are. (Encourages the constructive use of personal power to solve problems and when/how to reach out for assistance when needed)

A Good Intention Clothes Itself In Sudden Power - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every community’s success is based on each individuals understanding of the core values and philosophy of the organization. Whether that organization is a preschool or a global corporation. Each year our daughter’s school goes over their intentions – more on this later – and their focus for the year. 2011-2012 brought us:

  • Strengthen the idea of school as a place of collaborative research.
  • Focus on exploring the values, structures and rituals that make up our school community.

Each classroom then decides how they will support those focuses – think taking corporate values and then creating departmental goals. Our class chose exploration around:

  • I am a contributing member of a community. To develop a learning community based on what each individual brings to the whole.
  • I am a communicator. To define and support how children document what is important to them and use their documentation for observation, reflection and sharing.

The teachers also invited parents to share their hopes, dreams and wishes for their child’s year. Our wish for our daughter was that she never stops asking questions that don’t have easy answers. The conversation following “Does King Tut, my goldfish and Jesus all play together now that they are dead?” has been an on-going discussion that isn’t answered with a yes/no.  I’ve been asked hard questions by members of the communities I participate in over the years and I approach them in the same way- from a place of curiosity and interest.

What is the focus for your community? How do you nurture and grow it? What is your “wish” for those communities you are a part of?


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