Home > Choices, Relationships > On the benefits of small communities

On the benefits of small communities

My school (and school district) are by far the largest organizations in which I have ever worked.  I find it a little overwhelming.  It’s hard to get to know the rest of the staff and I expect it will be relatively hard to make myself known to them.  When I’m in an organization I like to find ways to be valuable – taking on a special project, becoming an expert on a particular topic – and it’s important to me to be recognized for my expertise.  While I never expected to become a leader in my first year of teaching, the sheer size of the staff (and their remarkable quality) make it hard for me to envision a leadership role down the road, either.

I also doubt I’ll get to know very many of the 750+ kids in the building – eventually I’ll probably learn a lot of the first grade, but the other 5 grades?  Highly unlikely.  As much as I like my school and respect the work of the teachers in building a strong, loving community, I wonder how much anyone can really do when a school is so large.  How do you build community when you’re too large to gather together?  How do you ensure that students feel known within the community when they rarely see staff beyond their own teacher?

I’m not sure if there are small schools in the U.S., at least not in places that I’d like to live.  But I suspect that if I stay in teaching, eventually I’ll seek out a smaller place – a place where the school is small enough to come together in one room (even if that room is the gym), and where it’s possible for staff to know staff, staff to know students, and students to know each other.  I like the sense of belonging, of shared commitment, that comes from feeling connected to the rest of the people in the building.

  1. September 14, 2010 at 7:28 am

    There are lots of small schools in west Texas! I knew the names of pretty much every kiddo pre-k through 12, we could meet as a school (all staff and students) in the gym, as the faculty and staff in the cafteria, or as the high school faculty in the math classroom. I know completely what you mean – especially after having experienced a tight community. Come on down!

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