During each Group night, I shared that the faculty and staff read Charles Vogl’s book, The Art of Community, over the summer. In the book, he expressed that community is where you begin to answer three foundational questions: Who are you? What do you do? What do you value?
Now that your children are in their second month of school, they have begun to establish community within their Groups. This means they have also begun to answer these three essential questions.
Who are you?
In Community Meetings and SuperGroups, students in the VIIIs, IXs, and Xs have done exploratory work about who they are as individuals and who they want to be as a collective. As you can imagine, this exploration takes different shapes in the various Groups. Some have done Community Scavenger Hunts to find unique attributes about each other, while others have turned facts about themselves into a game called “Find the Fib.” Other students crafted identity webs, where they discussed both personal and social identifiers about themselves. Regardless of the game or activity, students were and are engaged in finding the unique and collective characteristics that they bring into City and Country with them each day.
What do you do?
In the Middle School, students are in the final throes of opening up shop for their Jobs. The VIIIs and IXs both have their grand openings coming later this month: October 28 for the Post Office and October 25 for the Store! The Xs, our School’s Sign-Makers, have their assignments and are working on creating advertisements to publicize the range of signs and other materials people may want to order from them. In addition, all our students are working to establish routines for their homework, beginning to dive into research for their studies, and preparing to engage with their Book Groups.
There have already been several exploratory trips to support the Groups’ studies. These trips have included going both far and near: neighborhood trips to the local Post Office and community stores, city trips to the American Museum of Natural History, Morgan Library, and Inwood Hill Park, and an out-of-city trip to Bear Mountain. Regardless of where they are or what the students are studying, they are practicing the skills of asking and answering questions to help them understand the past and present.
What do you value?
Often, we describe the start of the Jobs Program as the first time students are asked to serve the community by providing a service necessary to the functioning of the School. However, students’ Group Jobs are not their only responsibilities—they also have important roles in their individual Groups. For example, in the Lunchroom, the job of Table Monitor rotates among students to ensure the tables have been picked up and cleaned before the next Group arrives. In the classroom, students are assigned jobs such as changing the schedule, updating announcements, or helping to get supplies for their smaller groups or tables. Whether in or out of class, these jobs help students understand the importance of supporting community, thinking about the needs of others, and having collective responsibility.
So if your child comes home and you want to know about their day, be sure to ask them: How is community being established in your Group? In what ways have you helped to establish community for your friends, Group, and School?