The Importance of Building Community in Schools

The Importance of Building Community in Schools

Despite the rather lofty title, this is a light-hearted piece. Recently, we celebrated our Foundation Day at my school. It came at a good time; there’s a lot of pressure on students and teachers at our school this year, and Term 3, as always, is the toughest term. Added to that, we’ve had a lot of staff absences due to illnesses, which have made everyone else’s job that much more challenging. Fairly standard stuff for a high school in Term 3, but it’s a drain on everybody’s reserves, and that’s why a day like our Foundation Day is so important.

The formula has changed a little bit over the last couple of years, but I think that we’ve started hitting upon something that really works for us. The day begins with a liturgy, and a chance for all of us to listen to the story of the people after whom the school is named. It’s a good story, and links well with the redeveloped house competition, which is a focus for later in the day. This year, we also had an indigenous water blessing, which was a new experience for most of the students. After this, we have the now infamous Trivia Quiz all about the school. I’m not sure who takes it more seriously – the students or the teachers – but it’s a good chance for everyone to share their knowledge, and it is surprising what some students know.

Then there’s the actual events of the day – kind of like a fun fair, with rock climbing walls and reptile shows and giant connect four. They’re all good fun, but what I was really impressed with was the students who undertook to organise stalls for themselves – either off their own bat or as part of their business studies work. These students worked like troopers to plan, establish, sell and tidy up – with the result that they all raised a decent amount of money for charity. Well done to them.

Normally, my blog postings are pretty sober reflections on learning and education. You might be wondering where this all fits in to that, but I see the two as supporting measures, rather than opposing stories. Schools are, at their heart, communities of very different groups. Whether culturally, socially, academically or on any other scale, there are vast differences amongst the student and staff body in almost every school I’ve ever worked in. To be the most effective a school can be, it needs to take these separate elements and forge them into a single group. Days like Foundation Day are one way of doing this.