Cultivating Communities

On January 6th, Parker’s first ever Rock n’ Roll Book Fair was held at the Burlington, Massachusetts Barnes & Noble. To bring more of the school and Reading community to the event our music teacher, Aaron Clark, ELA teachers Steve Olivo and Brian James, and their leading vocalist (me!) came out of talent show retirement and performed a five song set for our adoring, adolescent fans. The event brought hundreds of dollars to the aid of the Parker school library.

Perhaps more importantly, the event offered an opportunity for students, parents, administrators and teachers to come together and enjoy a time for us all to share a love for music and more personal side of ourselves overall. As librarian, Robyn Ferrazanni shared with me beforehand, the planning and excitement around the fair made the event much more of a community builder than a fundraiser. Students generated short video clips of our past performance for the Parker morning news show to publicize the event. Some students cajoled others to join them as “roadies” and carpool to Burlington. Better yet, a few student bands sprouted up in interest to join the event (in many cases outshining “Sean Collins and the FCAs!”) By the time the show ended there was not a space in the Barnes & Noble’s or neighboring Chili’s parking lot to be found!

This past weekend I spent the day with a different kind of community. Four fellow Parker educators and I attended the School Reform Initiative’s annual winter meeting in New York City. Despite mother nature’s greatest efforts to thwart travel roughly 200 educators from across the nation came together to share student work, classroom dilemmas, and best practices with the goal of “strengthening our commitment to educational equity and excellence.”

Rich experiences come from sharing work with educators both within and outside our school systems. With the unassuming eyes and ears of my assigned Critical Friends Group, or “CFG,” I was able to openly discuss the challenges facing my eighth grade team and school with our FLEX writing initiative and received the type of thoughtful feedback that comes with fresh eyes and more diverse perspectives from beyond our own school walls. A session with fellow facilitative leaders also proved fruitful, helping all of the participants look inward, identify our strengths and goals, and set action plans for one another.

On the bus ride home I found my mind swimming with different ideas to share with fellow teachers back home as well as personal charges to strengthen my 8th grade team, school-based CFG, and school as a whole. I started my action plan today, asking teachers (and administrators) to brainstorm and share new ways in which we can include students in the school’s community and development. It is my hope that we will take one or two of our ideas and implement them in the near future after more carefully developing the idea through an SRI protocol.

The day after the book fair my rockin’ colleagues and I received a number of compliments from students and teachers who were surprised and impressed by our willingness and confidence to step into the limelight and share our personal passions. With CFGs, a culture of sharing and critical, constructive feedback aims to strengthen our confidence in our teaching practice and better our schools and its educators. Now that’s something we can all jam to.


About MrMusselman

K-5 Science Specialist for the Burlington Public Schools of Burlington, MA.
This entry was posted in Professional Reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Cultivating Communities

  1. What an awesome way to build community! Education needs to be a partnership between all those involved (ie students, teachers, parents, admin, etc). More bonding experiences for these groups need to happen. They remind folks that we're all on the same team. They connect people of various expertises/experiences. It humanizes education, which in a society that is further driven by test taking and statistics, it's nice to have events that are centered around the personal connections that are integral to learning. Does anyone else have other creative ways to bring the community together?

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