The world will never be as it was on New Year’s 2020.  So much has changed, and so much will be changed.  What never changes is people. One of the reasons we feel unsettled so much of the time is due to the upheaval in our relationships. Being cut off from our usual daily contacts for such a long stretch is a huge challenge.  What does all this mean to you? An opportunity. This is a time for you to take a new type of leadership position – one with a community focus.

Although we often refer to the educational community, we don’t pay much attention to what holds and keeps it together. Our schools must be strong communities outside the classroom more than ever, and you can be the one who creates and leads it. This goes beyond the support you have given teachers on distance learning and the resources that go with it, and the various online events you have held during the virus.  I am talking about vital connections and relationships, the kind that truly sustain a strong community.

Believe it or not, one of the ways you can do this is by building website – one that is specifically focused on creating community. Yes, your library and/or you school already has one but consider creating one that is for community.  This is not for tools, techniques, meeting times, administrative forms or other resources.  This one is for connections. Alternatively, you could consider building private Facebook group.

People join communities because they need something that’s provided by the social support and network found in a community. When trying to create one, think about the needs of the potential members (parents, teachers, administrators). Beyond the academic goals of each of these groups, what do people need that they can get from coming together as a group.

This can be a place to encourage the school community to share who they are with each other. It may be a place where people ask for help, or a way to set up online playdates or movie watch parties.  You can also create themes for days of the week. For example “Monday Menu Ideas” could ask for everyone to put links to their favorite simple recipes (we all need some new ones by this time!). “Starring The Staff Tuesday” could be the day where teachers and administrators are featured engaged in an activity they love. “Binge Fridays” could ask what shows people are planning to binge watch in the coming weekend. You can also spotlight local businesses that could use the support of everyone around.

Before starting this, discuss your idea and goal with the principal. Explain that building a strong community will boost resilience as we tackle whatever the future brings. To get the community site started, announce it on all social media the school uses and any other ways they reach out. Be clear about the purpose and how you see this supporting the school through this time and the future.

Even having posts to help people laugh can build community. I saw a post on Facebook askin people to quote a famous line from a movie and add “due to the pandemic.” The idea drew many responses and was shared heavily, drawing more suggestions.  You can do the same with a famous line from a book, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times …due to the pandemic.” Post some riddles or other brain posers.  Invite teachers and administrators to add their own ideas.  The more people who contribute the stronger your community will grow.

You might suggest the community have a slogan and/or a logo.  Ask for ideas and have a vote to decide which one to use.  Then incorporate that in any activity you do.

Emelina Minero offers 10 Powerful Community-Building Ideas you can choose from to boost your group.  I like the Shout-outs.  Encourage members to acknowledge someone for anything that is worthy of sharing with others. We all love to be praised.  Oddly enough, we also feel good when we single out someone for praise.

Look for projects everyone can get behind. Ask for suggestions and for someone to lead it.  You are leading the way, but you want others to join you. And you don’t want to be doing all the work.

The idea behind this is to have some fun together and learn who we are as people.  We need to be like the California redwood trees which manage to grow so tall and live so long even though their roots are very shallow. They remain standing because their roots are interconnected with each other.  Together they stay strong. Like the redwoods, the more interconnected we are, the stronger we will grow.

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