Community & Connection

“We must learn that humanity is one big family. We are all brothers and sisters: physically, mentally and emotionally. But we are still focusing far too much on our differences instead of our commonalities. After all, every one of us is born the same way and dies the same way.”

― Dalai Lama 

How We Define Community

Community /kəˈmyo͞onədē/
Noun

1: A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common
2: A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals
3: A group of interdependent organisms growing or living together in a specified habitat
Community | HeartFirst Education

Community is about coming together for a common or shared purpose. We have many communities in our lives, both large and small. We have countries, states, cities, neighborhoods, schools, classrooms, and families. We have businesses, organizations, churches, and clubs. 

We are a social species. Community is the nature of who we are. Human beings have basic psychological needs for belonging and connection. But in recent decades, many people in our society have lost that sense of community and may feel isolated or alone, even though our society is more “connected” than ever before.

Why We Value Community in Education

Each classroom is a community and is a model for the students of the greater community as a whole. By creating a strong educational community, we enhance learning and promote feelings of well-being and belonging amongst students. 

A plethora of research exists confirming the benefits of building strong communities in schools. These include:

  • Social and emotional competence. (Solomon et al., 2000)
  • Greater academic motivation. (Solomon, Battistich, Watson, et al., 2000)
  • Increased altruism. (Schaps, Battistich, & Solomon, 1997)
  • Decreased drug use and violence. (Resnick et al., 1997)

“We are all connected in the great circle of life”

― Lion King

How We Define Connection

Connection
/kəˈnekSH(ə)n/

Noun


1: A relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else
2: The act of connecting: the state of being connected
3: A means of communication or transport
4: A group of persons associated together

Everything is interconnected. Nothing occurs in isolation. What we do to one; we do to all. We all intuitively know that we are connected, but we seem to forget and instead feel separate from one another and from our mother earth that sustains us.

Connection is about relationships; and this is the nature of our life. Everything exists in relation to something else. Like it or not, we are interdependent.

I am because you are.

We are Linked. Bonded. Related. Attached. Tied. Joined. Associated. United.

We are one.

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in a sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not here-time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper.

“To be” is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. The sheet of paper is, because everything else is.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Why We Value Connection in Education

Connection is vital to education. We believe in education that teaches through relationship; through human connection. This method of teaching is student centered rather than subject centered and is collaborative rather than competitive.

We know that feelings of community and belongingness are what give life meaning, so we want to foster these values and build connections in the classroom in order to enhance learning, motivation, and ultimately, quality of life.

Students need to feel connected to what they’re learning. Without connection, there is no real interest or tie in education. For true learning to take place, a student has to care; he has to relate to it and see himself in it. We believe in an education that matters to students and is relevant for them. This all begins with connection: connecting to the people in their classroom, to their community, to humanity, and to all of nature as a whole.

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