By JOE BROOKS
A clear awareness of the need for connection and community-building within the teaching profession led to the launching of Community Works Journal in the mid 1990’s, as a way to create connections and bring community focused teaching to a wide audience of like-minded educators.
The response has been extremely heartening, with the Journal now reaching hundreds of thousands of educators around the world. Feedback from our educator readers led us to create intentional and active opportunities for teachers to support each other. CWI’s acclaimed Summer Institutes on Place Based Service-Learning being one important opportunity.
“The thinking on my own is possible because of opportunities to run intellectually deep in the company of others….”
— CWI Summer Institute Participant
Since 1995, we have seen thousands of teachers from nearly every U.S. state attend our CWI Summer Institutes, along with educators from many international schools.
Educators have thrived in these collaborative design based professional development experiences, taking their passion and learning back home with the tools, skills, and confidence to deepen and broaden their local programs.
Perhaps most importantly, they have brought their colleagues on board and into a conversation that has now changed the lives of countless students.
So, as we have collectively worked toward deep integration of the principles of place, service, and sustainable communities in our work with educators, it has been clear to us that a big part of the answer lies in creating community of purpose in the process. Strength in numbers if you will. It is crucial to find ways to work together in support of shared principles no matter what our geographic distance may be. This has clearly been the spirit each year for the educators from across the U.S. and well beyond at site based CWI events and for CWI’s Summer Institutes on Service-Learning. Our goal has been to create a nexus of professional development around the collaboratively held notion of place as the context, service-learning as the strategy, and sustainable communities as the goal.
As to the result in the classroom, think of it as K-16 students gaining a sense of community, purpose, and action through the school curriculum by being involved in work that directly affects and benefits their local community. Such curriculum creates an opportunity to enter into other people’s worlds to achieve mutual understanding, broadening each of our definitions of community while supporting deeper engagement with each other as people. This is an excellent way to think about the work that we all need to do together as educators. Now, more than ever, it is also a crucial part of building and strengthening Democracy.