At my home school, I hear the word community multiple times throughout the day, and it is something that we, as a community, talk about constantly. From my perspective, a community is a place where individuals feel comfortable being themselves while growing together alongside many other unique individuals. This growth may occur by walking through something with someone, by challenging one’s way of thinking, or even more simply, by being present in a time of need.
At my home school, I walk around campus and feel a part of something larger and more important. I feel comforted knowing that the next time I am going through a hard time, there is someone on campus there to support me and walk with me. I also know that someone in the community is ready to challenge me to think differently about something or to become the individual I am called to be. For me, there is a sense of authenticity, support, and comfort within this community. Little did I realize that one of the hardest parts of studying abroad would be being away from this community that I call home.
Upon arriving in Budapest, I had a desire to find a community that would allow me to fully be myself during my time here. I feel like the community within BSM & BSME is still forming since there are a lot of individuals with different personalities between both programs, but I do see one slowly starting to take shape. I have also found a community within an international Christian fellowship group here in Budapest that challenges me to continue to share the light of Christ, but also welcomes me completely for who I am. This community has welcomed me with open arms and has reminded me of why a community is so greatly important.
One thing that I have noticed from the classroom observations I have done both in America and in Budapest is the need for a community within a classroom. There are multiple reasons for this need, but one important reason is that this community allows for students to feel comfortable asking questions and speaking up when they don’t understand something. The article that our practicum seminar class read today after I had written most of this post describes the community that should be developed in a math classroom as “a community that supports not only mathematical intellect, but also the growth of curiosity, creativity, passion, and the grit needed to persist through challenging problems.” I thought this was an excellent way of describing an environment for students to strive within the math classroom and then use skills learned from this community in their daily lives.
Last week in our practicum seminar class we talked about the importance of math talks – an opportunity for students to talk with each other about what they agree or disagree on in a solution to a problem. These math talks can help students understand the correct and different ways of thinking about a problem and develop a deeper understanding of the current math topic. In order for this to fully happen, there is a need for a classroom community. Students need to feel comfortable speaking up about something they agree or disagree on without feeling like they will be judged; students need to know it is okay to be in a vulnerable situation; students need to recognize that they are expected to help other students learn, not to compete against them; and lastly each and every student needs to feel and experience this classroom culture in order for this community to really form. Without such a community, I fear that some students would be too afraid to speak up when they disagree with the majority of the class.
In order for this community to form, it will take effort both from the teacher and from the students, but that effort will be so worth it in the long run. There is no how-to booklet on how to form such a community either, since each class will be different and form their classroom community in a different way.
I write this post because I have been reflecting on community a lot lately. It has been an important part of my life and I believe an important part of the classroom. I desire for my students to want to learn and because of that I desire for a community to form within each and every one of my future classrooms.
Now I also invite you to reflect on this by asking yourself: How have communities shaped who I am and what role do I see communities playing in my future?