This is a question that I have pondered from many angles over my life. What is it that makes a school work together? What is it that makes a school a community? What is a community? I ask these questions not to answer them but as a starting point from which to reflect.
I would like to start with an activity which may help us see the variety of roles played in community. Place a group (school, community etc…) of people in a room, give them a simple cooperative activity to perform together with only a few rules: All the people in the room must come together, hold hands to form a circle. Once this circle is established share these few rules and goals with the participants:
1) In silence (no intentional verbal or nonverbal communication) start expanding and contracting the circle in unison; three steps in and three steps out, three steps in and three steps out. I will call this a pulse.
2) Once this pulse is established, start to form an (one) opposing pulse by somehow having every other person deviate their original pulse rhythm.
The group will probably have questions. Only a few are to be answered so not to give people too much time to think of a ‘strategy’ in their minds. This includes not letting them count how many people are in the circle.
Before you read on, take a moment and visualize this activity with a group of people you know. Let’s say your family. Now, close your eyes and see what your family does…
I will share the start of mine: My mother sat on the couch, because ‘playing games’ is for the kids. My father passively participated. As for my four older siblings: The oldest, my brother, jumped in ready to play. My oldest sister gave off a sigh, dismissing the activity and left the room. The next oldest sister, was in for the challenge: “It sounds fun and having run a business for 20 years, it should be easy enough.” The next to the youngest sister played because the others were, and of course I was there for it is my visualization.
I am not even to step one and I have lost two participants. Of the five remaining: two are passive, one is playfully engaged, one is engaged and ready to ‘make it work’ and I am still unaware of the role I am to play. My shared dynamic is a small group of people with a long history of family bonds, which are more sticky then the more professional connections we make in chosen professions, right? Or are they?
This ‘pulsing’ activity I outlined above is an example of the “Expansion and Contraction” Eurhythmy exercise experienced during an Antioch course entitled Waldorf School Administration which was held for two Saturdays in January 2007. Since that Saturday in January, I have continued to reflect on the questions of What is it that makes a school work together? What is it that makes a school a community? What is a community? I have reflected on the multi-faced roles I have played in various communities and the roles I see played by others, and I have come to one conclusion for myself: We are all part of community; it is not a choice. Our choices are whether we choose to participate and if we choose to be conscious of our role with in it.
It is my conclusion that any school can be a strong community if all members choose to consciously participate. It is our choice to pick the community where we can be true to our beliefs and that we can act consciously within.