Dr. Mara Tieken challenges us in her article, “Only Hope: Why Rural Schools Matter”, about our understanding of the true value that public schooling plays in our communities.
“As currently conceived, “school” is considered an institution for children not their parents and families…Only when we acknowledge the many roles that schools play can we fully recognize the promise of public schooling for all of our communities” (Tieken, 2013 p. 7).
In many places, particularly rural contexts, schools play an outsized role in the development of community. Yet, should that not be the case for every school? What other public institution brings together such a broad range of individuals across the social spectrum?
The chief concern for school’s should be creating community. Without community there can be no hope for learning. I’m not speaking about the surface level community, where we come out to show support for our school’s sports teams. That’s easy…I’m speaking to a deeper community built on mutual trust and shared partnership between stakeholders.
The first step for such community building is the acknowledgement among us educators that our schools serve well beyond the students immediately in front if us. When we embrace the role of community-building the outcomes of education become clearer because they are then defined by the needs directly relevant to those we serve.
Below is an excerpt from the book, The Choice: In Teaching and Education by the Arbinger Institute:
“Education is the lifeblood of a community’s continued existence. We have an obligation one to another.
There are many in every community who feel this call.
They should be involved in the educational endeavor.
As mentors, as tutors, as men and women to be admired — there are so many roles that need filling.
Every school and every classroom should be community space, for it is the community’s future that is learning” (Arbinger, 2001 p. 68).
Doing education together is crucial for the future of our schools and community. This will require changes in perspective about how we evaluate the true gains of schooling. What would happen if schools were evaluated more by their attempt to involve community stakeholders in the educating of our youth? Let us not be found wanting!