Throughout the month of September, in community meetings and in our Looking-glasses [4th-5th grade] meetings and journaling, we have been reflecting on community: what makes a community, how we feel in a community, the challenges of being in community, and what our responsibilities to one another are. Given the ways in which our society often promotes competition and putting the individual over the collective, I appreciate opportunities to reflect on why community is so valuable. Throughout our conversations, I have been struck by the insights students have had into the importance of creating an inclusive and welcoming space where we feel able to be ourselves, of the responsibilities we have in supporting and uplifting each other, and of what we can accomplish as a collective when we collaborate with one another. With our theme of mirrors and lenses this year, I have also been reflecting on how communities offer us the chance to connect with others in the community who share some of our interests and identities and also to have our worldview broadened through our interactions with those whose interests and identities differ from our own.
As a new member of this specific community, I have felt very aware both of how welcomed I have felt in the community and of how much the support of a community means to me in navigating the challenges of a new job. From the colleagues who have lent me a listening ear, numerous supplies, and sage advice to the parents who have connected with me and filled me in on traditions and routines at Chicago Friends School to the students who have who bring their wit, their thoughtfulness, and their kindness to the community we build together, I have been grateful for how welcomed I have felt and for being in a community that values the collective.
Of course there are days when some aspects of being in a community are challenging. We get into conflicts at recess or we are frustrated by how much quicker we could read this chapter or get through this math page alone. And of course there is also value to having time on our own and opportunities to work independently. When I think about such challenges of being in a community, however, I also think about how much we would lose without the community. The aspects that make it challenging are also what make it so profoundly meaningful. We have conflicts at recess because we are individuals with different perspectives and experiences and ways of expressing ourselves. We might get through a chapter or a math page faster but we would miss out on an opportunity to see a book through someone else’s perspective or to discover the strategy that a classmate uses in math.
During a conversation about community earlier this week, I played the song “Crowded Table” by the Highwomen with the Looking-glasses:
“You can hold my hand
When you need to let go
I can be your mountain
When you’re feeling valley-low […]
I want a house with a crowded table
And a place by the fire for everyone”
The Looking-glasses shared their insights about how important it is to be there for each other and support each other, and about the need to create a place where we all feel welcome and included. And I wanted to say to this community, thank you for being a mountain for each other, for being a crowded table, for making a place around the rug for everyone.