Building Community

Anyone who has taught middle school for any length of time will tell you that seventh grade is a rough year for many students. Parents will probably tell you the same thing. Therefore, as a team one of our goals was to create a community among seventh graders. The idea was to get students working together effectively and create a sense of connectedness. In other words, we wanted to ensure that seventh graders do not feel like the forgotten middle children of middle school. Our team has worked on various strategies to meet those goals, but this month I feel we were exceptionally successful.

Last year, I was inspired by a photo essay project called the Fearless Project. The Fearless Project focuses on LGBT athletes. While I didn’t think that would be fitting for our goals, I liked the idea of a photo project. I wanted a way for students to be publicly acknowledged and allow people get to know one another in a different way besides as students in a class. When I brought the idea to the team, they were on board immediately.

Over the summer, parents were asked to submit photos of students doing something they were passionate about. These photos were mounted, and students created an “artist statement” of sorts in their English classes. Fortunately, we were able to connect the writing to their reading of The Giver in English classes. The essential question was “What is the role of the individual in a community?” We titled the project “Voices in the Community.”

Every week for the month of October a new set of students are posted in the gallery of our auditorium. Every morning during convocation students gather to read the mini-essays and view the pictures. The images ranged from sports to hobbies like reading, fishing and baking to community service projects. The response to the project has been overwhelming. The students are excited to see images of themselves displayed, and other students and teachers have learned about the students in a new way.

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