Building Community in the Middle/Upper School

“I think the biggest impact of C&C on what I do today, and how I live my life today, is the context of social responsibility, volunteering, giving back into the community. The whole atmosphere was much greater than just going into a classroom—it’s [your] job, and you take responsibility for that position.”
--Amanda Weiss ’71, Director Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem

At the start of the school year, each Middle School Group works together to create a Community Contract, which acts as a set of social expectations as the year progresses. An important part of maintaining strong Group and School community is to review these Contracts throughout the year, to assure each Group is living up to the standards that we set in the first exciting days of school.

Similarly, at our opening Middle/Upper School faculty meetings, we discussed how we create strong collaborative learning communities in our Groups. As we shared, we noted a few points agreed upon by the majority of teachers. These act as the principles of good community building:
  • Students are experts in their Job
  • Students working together makes them stronger as a Group
  • Group democracy and empowerment are key components of strong communities
  • Routines and systems benefit children and adults
  • Children need a trusting and safe space
  • We should assume that the person speaking is speaking from a good place
In October, the faculty reviewed these community building principles and discussed the Group activities from the first days of school that support them. Teachers identified:
  • Job Startup processes
  • Trips that include both Groups
  • Shares/exchanges between Groups
  • Time at lunch and in Library as a whole Group
  • Group to Group pairings
    • XIIs/IVs
    • IXs/VIIs Math Buddies
    • Xs/Vs
    • VIIIs/VIs Reading Buddies
One example stood out with a clear connection to Social Studies: the IXs studied the general store in early America. They learned that the general store was a place where communities gathered and shared. The IXs then defined the purpose the Shiney Sharpie: “The Store is the hub of the community.” This type of reflection on the past and application to the present is an important part of our Social Studies-based program.

Another salient example comes from last week, when Ann Roberts (a XIIIs Group Teacher) and I questioned if the XIIIs would make the print date of their fourth newspaper. She and I outlined a backup plan, but when the plan was presented to the XIIIs, their reaction was swift and unanimous: “we will dig in our heels and assure that this edition makes it to our community of readers ON TIME!” In the end, we, working within the tenet that they were the experts, witnessed a very empowered group of XIIIs work together to serve their community in the way they had promised.

Actions like these take place—and this type of unique learning takes place—in part because of the way community is built at C&C.

by Alex Ragone, Director of Middle/Upper School

City and Country School

146 W 13th Street New York, NY 10011
Phone: 212.242.7802