On Community

I think I had intended to write this post several months ago, but couldn’t remember if I actually had written it.  Upon glancing back through posts, I don’t think I did.  I just thought about writing it about three separate times.

We’re a week into school.  It’s a privilege to be able to love these kids and teach them.  Yesterday I got to listen to a few of my AP students discuss whether or not something good always came out of bad situations in history.  I listened to one of my 10th grade girls adamantly defend Columbus’ men for the crime of brutally exterminating the Taino Indians.

However, I also see many of my students missing pieces of wholeness.  I see in the way that they respond to each other and authority how many of them lack the sense that they are part of a community and part of a bigger picture–they are not just them.  They are part of a family, a class, a school, a town.  But sadly, many of them don’t feel ownership of this or feel a sense of belonging.  They want to be them.

I see a lot of things as having played a role in shaping my students this way.  There’s American individualistic culture.  There’s the fact that many of my students probably don’t eat dinner as a family, taking away from the idea that you are part of something bigger.  Not that I’m blaming their parents–I know a lot of their parents have to work two jobs just to bring in enough income.  But it still makes a difference in how a child views himself or herself in relation to others.  And then there’s technology, which so many people use to fulfill their desire for immediacy–which, again, revolves around the individual.  And when they are asked to be part of a community–like a classroom–they allow themselves to be silenced not because they feel an identity with that community, but because they are beaten down and stripped of individuality.

Today’s Saturday, and I put in Mulan to watch while I was baking cookies.  At the beginning of the movie, when the Emperor sends his advisors around to draft soldiers, the advisor reaches Mulan’s town and calls for Fa Mulan.  Even though Fa Mulan is old, injured, and a well-known man, he drops his cane.  Mulan gasps, but her father says, “It is an honor to serve my emperor and my country.”

Someday, I hope that my students have a sense of belonging to a community that’s larger than just them.

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