When choosing a place to live, work, or play one of the factors that make a place desirable is the role of community. We want to feel a sense of belonging, contribution, and be accepted for who we are. We want to receive positive feedback from the people around us.
We all contribute to our community through our actions, which have a ripple effect, influence others, and our own future actions. It is a continuous stream of positive and negative effects flowing from our actions that shape our daily experience.
The article titled The Benefits of Teaching Lessons Learned in Preschool to Older Kids talks about high quality pre-school programs emphasizing what the author calls “matters of the heart”. The author shares listening, sharing, following directions, managing emotions, and making friends as all matters of the heart. The powerful take away is that these factors are not only taught in pre-school, but should continue into the elementary and upper grades.
In my experience, school age lessons about social skills are taught through slogans and lists of rules that ask for compliance (sticks) in exchange for rewards (carrots). During my school age career, all of the programs I have worked for have offered a prize system to influence behavior. I have not used these systems because they do not work for the greater good, teaching from the carrot and sticks model. It is a model that is outdated and ineffective for community building. Carrots and sticks create competition instead of cooperation.
I prefer to create a community of learners by throwing out the old model of separating children by age, and have all the children in the program work together. I want kindergartners through 5th graders working together aligning through common interests in shared work. The school is then a place of cooperation and collaboration. A place where like minds come together and push the boundaries of creativity. Schools where more knowledgeable and experienced children help other children learn new activities and ideas. Where the adults are co-learners as is everyone in the community.
What I have observed through this model is that the older children look after the younger children. They are patient and kind, and teach them how to play games, create, and use new tools and materials.
The actions the children engage in are influenced by our actions. What we believe they believe. The energy we send out feeds their energy. If we lend a helping hand and cherish service as a way to build our community, this is what we will sow.