Life in a Crowded Place: Making a Learning Community
No one will deny that life in classrooms is an intense social experience. Crowded together with students for six or more hours a day in a space no bigger than a large living room, the immediate response of most teachers is to maintain control and enforce obedience. But creating a community - bringing students together and keeping them together - is the most vital aspect of a teacher's work. Without it, real learning cannot take place, as even the soundest philosophies and techniques amount to little without a community to bring them to life. The concept of community in the classroom is certainly not new, but little has been said about what makes up a community, how it is created, and what functions it fulfills.
In "Life in a Crowded Place," Ralph Peterson helps teachers see what it is they do when they bring students together to make a community. The hope here is to show teachers what is going on - to identify and name - so that they can exercise greater control over their work and understand the kind of learning community they are making (or need to make) and how that community functions to influence the quality of learning and life in elementary and middle school.
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Ralph Peterson, in Life in a Crowded Place, tells of a teacher who builds a beautiful ritual around this book. Whenever a new child moves into her classroom, the children gather in a circle and hear this story. The new child chooses his or her very own rock from a collection, and as the rock is passed among other class members, each says what he or she will do to make the new child's experience a happy one.
His emphasis on rituals, celebrations, and community building can be seen throughout the book.
Ceremony Ritual and Rite
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