A Learning Community
“Education will vary with the quality of the life that prevails in a group.”
John Dewey, Democracy and Education
Much, if not most of the learning that goes on in and out of schools happens through interactions of groups. The desire to learn from and with others is so powerful that children find ways to learn from and with one another. Recently we have been discussing our pages for the Year Book and through these discussions I really got a sense of how the children understand that they are part of a learning community and that we can learn from each other. The opportunities we provide for detailed dialogues, conversations and commentaries between children and children and adults have changed the nature of the relationships and interactions. The children are willing participants in discussions we make in the class and they can lead and share responsibility. With great seriousness they embarked on the collaborative task on making decisions about our Year Book pages.
We began by thinking about what a year book was,
“Yearbook is a thing that you all did. You have to write it down. Like a diary or something.”
“It has year pictures and stuff and it’s a book about the year and people get to sign on it. People can sign their names because I signed my name on someone I know.”
“A year book is very important. You can learn with it.”
“Everybody gets one.”
“I know now, I have one at home!”
The children made a democratic choice about the layout by organising a people graph and interpreting which layout was the most popular. The children who did not get their choice accepted the class decision.
We had been asked to construct some statements about learning in our class. The children made thoughtful contributions which showed how much they have grown over the year. The children are speaking up more in small and large group activities and in other situations.What is more noticeable is that their talents and capabilities are becoming more visible and the growing understanding that they each contribute to the learning of the group.
“Making friends and playing together. I was trying to make lots of friends. They help me to make something.”
“Important is learning and doing drawing and books.”
“When the High School came to measure us was important.”
“Making friends, sharing stuff and playing together. Shaking hands. Dancing together. Hugging and friends are important.”
“I learn to be kind to everybody and help them when they fell down. I found it out, how to be kind.”
“I learn from the music room, how to sing.”
“I learn good because I do home school links.”
“I learn in KB sharing and talk nicely.”
“When the High School came and helped us learn to measure.”
“Make exercise and play and swing together and having fun.”
“Learning with friends. When I don’t know something I can ask my friends.”
“Learning with new friends and on the monkey bars.”
“I learn because I listen and everybody listens too.”
“Playing outside makes you learn. Getting more energy so you are not tired and it’s good for your brain.”
The next step was to consider the types of photographs the children would like to be featured.
“We need all of the people even you (Clair). Pictures of our buildings and stuff.”
“In the big one we can have all of us together and the teachers.”
“Outside being a Chinese dragon.”
“Playing on the monkey bars. Me and Aahana.”
“Doing some stuff.”
“Pictures of sharing and playing together.”
Some of the children borrowed a camera from the library and worked hard to photograph each member of the class. Photographs were selected from many and shared with the group. The children were really appreciative of their friends photography efforts and showed genuine delight in the images chosen.
“I really like the pictures of me and Jaya and Malak and Tale. I like the shots and I like Violet’s and the backgrounds.”
“I like Jaya’s picture because it’s like sunset colours. It’s a little bit dark. And Jaya looked very nice in that picture. Jaya’s was the mostest goodest.”
“Grace’s picture is nice and Jaya’s. I like it. I think Haein’s picture is nice. The first picture of Haein and Aahana was good too.”
“I like Jaya’s and Grace’s because they are smiling.”
“I like Grace’s and Jaya’s because Jaya’s is shiny. I like the first one, Aahana and me. I like Kshitij is silly in the whole wide world. And Maya carefully reading the picture and the word. The pictures so beautiful and nice.”
“I like Jaya’s face because it was different colours. It was bright and dark and I like all the smiling faces.”
I was touched by the sensitive and mature way the children made decisions about their Year Book pages and the way in which they seemed to sense the beauty of being a member of a learning community. Individuals who learn to listen, who acknowledge and respect diverse points of view, who work with others to solve problems and who can interpret and understand the world in increasingly complex ways will make for a brighter future.