I have been thinking a lot about communities of late.
Last week I wrote about trust, connectedness and kindness to exlplore some of these ideas.
Sue, my wife, is reading Donald Epstein and Nathaniel Altman’s book The 12 Stages of Healing. We have been discussing the ideas in the book in relation to wellness.
I was attracted in particular to Donald and Nathaniel’s discussion of community as “a way of being” that has a number of facets that include:
- Primary relationships
- Shared interests
Donald and Nathaniel observe that:
It is human nature to draw boundaries or imaginary ‘circles’ around our lives. Some people draw these circles and around their experiences to the exclusion of everyone else. Others expand their circles to include family and friends. Many enlarge their circles to include members of their religious denominations or those who share their nationality or political beliefs.
They suggest that as we broaden our circles:
we often draw on divergent energies (like arguments, disagreements and conflicts) to us. However, as we increase our sense of community and connection to others, we find that arguments, disagreements, and conflicts are only labels we place on divergent energies as a means of drawing attention to them.
They conclude that “what appears to be chaotic on an obvious or intermediate level is the basis of order within a larger context”. Divergent energies are essential to the flourishing of a community “because it is only through challenging our patterns and perspectives that we can learn to live more deeply within ourselves”. As a community accepts divergent energies it is able “to achieve a higher level of evolution and order”.
I am profoundly interested in community flourishing and see the integration of divergent energies as a key to lasting change. As I was contemplating this integration I came across a story in the Education Guardian (thanks to an alert from Sue’s RSS feeds). Wendy Berliner, the author of the story, discussed a survey of teachers in the UK . She introduced her discussion with this paragraph:
Disrespected, often bullied, fed up with governments that don’t trust them and despairing of the decline in parenting skills, you’d think teachers would be scouring the jobs columns for other careers, but, according to the Guardian Teacher Network survey published today, the reason they aren’t in larger numbers is because so many of them still love teaching.
One teacher quoted by Wendy observes that:
I have never before worked in a place where I have not been treated as a professional. My every move is monitored. I am not trusted to do the job I have trained and gained qualifications to do. It has had a great impact on my confidence to do the job.
Another teacher notes that:
I feel we’re missing a trick. Surely if we support colleagues rather than berate them, and focus on delivering engaging lessons, we will have a much happier staff whose love of what they do will rub off on the pupils.
I feel sad that many teachers are now, more than ever before, expected to be social workers, parents and teachers all rolled into one as there is a lack of parental support. Children are hoofed into schools and we have to do the groundwork of teaching them manners and how to behave properly.
Surely the school should just be one link in the chain? Parents, teachers and society at large all have a role to play in producing rounded, responsible members of society.
Energised by Divergence
I see differentness and the willingness to accept it as important cornerstones of community flourishing. I do see connectedness as the filament of community development (it seems to be a cosmic ‘reality’ too).
The current #Change11 MOOC suggests that “being connected changes learning. When those connections are global, the experience of knowledge development is dramatically altered as well.” This week in the course Allison Littlejohn is discussing connected knowledge collective learning.
My thinking about and practice of connectedness was transformed by a community of practice in 2008 (CCK08). Since then I have been keen to explore what Donald and Nathaniel refer to as the Twelfth Stage. I see trust as the trigger for this stage … trusting yourself and trusting others.
Beware: Graffiti artists