A school is a fascinating mechanism with a bunch of ever-changing, constantly moving parts.
The workers whir about their classrooms, producing and changing lesson plans as they maneuver the cogs. Some of the cogs will grind and squeak their way through the days that are filled with tests and exams. Others bubble happily down hallways, while others still clash and clang about on courts and in band rooms. These constantly moving cogs group and ungroup and regroup at lunchroom tables, in academic organizations, within classrooms, and out on fields. Occassionally an engineer might come in to make repairs, but mostly the factory foreman keep watch over this delicate mechanism from principal offices whilst many of the cogs were counting down the days til the ultimate escape and the opportunity to be installed in to some new machine–graduation. Meanwhile, the foreman’s assistants wait nervously at the edge of school grounds for one of the cogs to spring loose and attempt an unauthorized lunchtime escape.
But does the machine and its community end there, at the boundaries of the school’s property? How does it exist and move and change when all its little parts leave campus grounds and interact with the other mechanisms around them?
Who constitutes a school’s community? What groups should it be able to draw upon? Is a school community a group of parents, care-givers, students, staff and teachers? How do younger siblings, neighbors, local university students, local businesses, national and international corporations, former students, retired teachers, and childless families fit into this community? What does the ideal school community look like and who is it composed of?
Further, what does a member of this community do?
Recently, I’ve found myself redefining my role and my relationship to my former schools and reconsidering which communities I am a part of.
When I graduated, I left my high school behind with only plans of returning once to visit my favorite teachers and annoy my underclassmen friends (as a proper college student should). This
A simultaneously former and current (and amazing and inspiring) classmate of mine is starting a program at our former high school and is recruiting some of our current classmates at our university to come help with it. The program will tutor low income students on specific subjects for the SAT. Admittedly, the SAT is not my favorite form of assessing college readiness, but it is an important gateway that many must pass through on the way to college, and this program will give students the resources that they need in order to navigate a complex system of interconnected mechanisms.
I’m planning on being one of the tutors, and I am helping my classmate to recruit more. With the decision to go back, rather suddenly, I found that I was no longer a passive former student of my high school, but an active alumni. I am no longer an escaped cog in a new mechanism, but a mechanic that could travel in between two inter-connected machines. My role within and my relationship to my former, now current, community has shifted.
Another friend of mine is currently working on bringing a panel of current college students who graduated from her high school back to her low-performing school. Her basic goal is to use the panel answer questions about college applications and college life. But, her purpose is to show currents students there that former students from their school and have attained success, and further, that the current students are a lot like these former students. She wants to show them that anything is possible, even for someone like them.
Yet another friend is returning to her former school to teach there, because she feels a strong draw to teach in a community where she understands the realities that students face and the institutions that they have to navigate.
All of this has left me wondering as to how to fit former cogs into the creation of the ideal school community.