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“I Will Plant Companionship”

This is a tree with multiple handprints and it's meant to symbolize Walt Whitman's phrase "I will plant companionship" These thoughts about classroom community from Katie Greene and Karen Conn Mitchum, excerpted from English Journal,  seem particularly relevant right now, given all the teachers and learners who will be coming together in new configurations across the country over the new few weeks:

Walt Whitman’s pledge, “I will plant companionship,” as spoken in his poem “A Song,” encourages teachers to pause and reflect on the types of communities that exist in our classrooms and schools, and on our obligations to nurture the seeds of collaboration and respect.

We wonder, in the hectic pace of our daily routines, if our practice mirrors Whitman’s enthusiasm to advocate for companionship and community.

As language arts teachers, we often find that the best and most effective moments of our teaching occur when we allow for students to interact authentically with literature and when we create spaces for them to participate as invested members of literary communities.

As Whitman embraces companionship and camaraderie, how have we modeled for students that literacy is a social event?

What can we do to help students acknowledge their roles as members of literary communities, as described by the NCTE/IRA Standards? . . .

In addition to supporting the diverse stories and experiences that our students bring into our classroom communities, it is also important for teachers to engage in different communities. Teachers are not only members of their classrooms but also members of a larger “classroom of educators.” As we encourage students to engage actively as members of their educational and personal communities, teachers must also strive to partake as invested members of professional communities.

To model collegiality and avoid the creation of superficial communities, we must work to erase the practices that treat teachers as “lone rangers,” where novices and veterans are left to create communities behind the closed doors of our classrooms.

When we engage with one another, participate in professional learning opportunities, and welcome one another into the communities of our own classrooms, we are strengthened by one another’s ideas.

The classroom community, for both teachers and students, requires a proactive attitude and demands the willingness to support an environment of collegiality and respect.

Excerpted from “Community in the Classroom” (English Journal, March 2012) by Katie Greene and Karen Conn Mitchum