We find ourselves at a crossroads, where some communities are dying and others are being built both offline and online. We live in an interesting age, and as international schools, it is time to monopolise on the changes we’re seeing to help students achieve their full potential.
Community means conversation
Much of everyday life has been moved to the virtual sphere, where people find community in the games they play, information they seek and social media they browse. Despite the invisible strings that connect them, these communities are very valid and many go on to make real-life impacts.
However, it is all the more important to not lose sight of the value real flesh-and-blood communities have as this online development takes hold. It is easy to forget how good real conversation feels, both with those who mean a lot to us and with those from whom we have so much to learn.
Conversation is such an unpredictable, flexible thing that it permits constant discovery, segwaying easily into new, interesting topics. It is agreed by worldwide consensus that conversation is also a essential skill for employment, given the importance placed on networking by our modern, professional society. As such, it is worth getting out there and practicing it whenever you can!
Helping others to help ourselves
Beyond refining our own personal skills, interacting with our community is important when it comes to creating connections, which in turn allow for greater serenity within ourselves. There is something special about the glow we often feel after doing a good deed or spending quality time with another person, that is less prominent when interacting with an online community. As research concludes, “the human dimension will always prevail, purely because we understand more when a person connects, delivers, interacts and raises a point of view”.
It is therefore important to continue this human interaction from which we derive so much more on a personal level than we do from our devices. Seeing the pleasure we can bring to others is important for our own well-being.
Working with the community at school
That is why CAS (creativity, activity, service) in the IB Diploma Programme and Service as Action in the IB Middle Years Programme are given such importance. If they do not fulfil the requirements of these components, students cannot pass the IBDP or MYP. Students may need some coercion to get started, but once they realise the power they have to affect change in their community with actions big or small, CAS loses its ‘obligatory’ nature and becomes easy to connect with. It is this ‘community, activity, service’ focus that enables students to fine-tune the skills that will shape their characters and help them to become well-rounded citizens.
Putting CAS into practice
It can bring about so many rewards, like finding a new hobby or passion. At Haut-Lac, some Diploma Programme (IBDP) students participate in running infant and primary clubs, which enables greater interaction between younger and older students. Whereas others indulge their passion for reducing plastic pollution by targeting the local supermarket, and showing our neighbors how much unnecessary plastic comes with their shopping.
In ways such as these, the students are able to help themselves and build ties with their local and school communities. Thanks to the technological age, these moments are more heartwarming to witness now than they might have been before, given that it is so often assumed our younger generations are not interested in life beyond their immediate circles and computer screens. Being able to see students participating in the life that goes on around them is proof that they are happy and willing to do so, they just need the right push to get started.
Saving the environment: the new community frontier?
As our environment becomes increasingly more of an emergency, it is not surprising that it is on this ecological front that many new communities are forming. Give people something to care about and watch them regroup. Young people are often the ones spearheading these movements, so perhaps they are a sign of where we should be heading next in our efforts to keep community relevant. By listening to them on the subjects they care about, they may in turn be more open to transferring empathy to other situations, like staving off loneliness for our elderly or lending a hand with generations younger than themselves.
Seeing humanity as a whole, not delineated by age or other factors, is what making a community is all about, and passing this message onto our students is one of a school’s essential duties. To value each and every person and the role they play in making up a community is a good foundation to build a future upon. Let’s not lose sight of that.