Many teachers don’t live in the school district in which they teach. This might be a purposeful choice or not. Even if we live in our students’ school district, we may not know their neighborhood or particular communities. One thing that could help you get to know your students and school better is to get to know the community in which you teach (and possibly live) a little bit better.
Right now, many preservice teachers are starting their student teaching experience. That experience is typically in an area that is quite different from where they grew up. In addition, students may not have even thought about the fact that they are entering a new community with its own history and resources. Here are some ways we might get to know our school community better:
- Talk to your students about their interests outside of school. Note some of the places they enjoy spending time and perhaps try to visit those places (as appropriate). For example, when my students found out that a lot of students go to the local skate park after school, they made a point to visit and see the area around that skate park.
- Make a point to visit some locally owned businesses in the community. This will provide you a different insight than simply shopping at your typical stores.
- Find out more about local resources for students. It is helpful to know about local organizations that can support families. For example, knowing where the local food pantry is or if there are local organizations that support refugees could be of great help to your students. You might also offer to help with such organizations.
- Visit the local library. You might make suggestions about what books they might consider that would supplement your curriculum and also you can figure out the computer and wifi situation there.
- Attend a school board meeting. The decisions made at the school board meetings certainly impacts your life. Get to know the members of your school board and the way in which decisions are made. You might also raise issues with the board.
- Read the local newspaper (if there is one). This could give you insight into local happenings.
- Visit informative sites such as the Census site that provide you insights into the local community. This might include demographic information and things such as local industries. Sites such as this could form the basis of an excellent mathematical exploration.
- Visit your local school district’s website to explore the boundaries of your attendance zone. It can be surprising to see the way the zones are drawn and can also form the basis of a great math lesson. How would you draw the zones and why? What would you attend to? etc.
This is by no means an extensive list, but it does include a number of things I recommend to my students. Feel free to add other items below.