Today as I watched the Herons work together to paint the shed and transfer sticks from the creek to the woods, I was struck by how cohesive they were. Just five weeks into our year and they know each other. They play together; they squable together. They have a life together that extends far beyond me.
I returned from lunch a few days ago to find the whiteboard covered with ads for "The Gams," the Herons' self described "One hit wonder" band. "Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, you have to listen to them!" We all sat rapt as the MC announced the band, then the Gams started their song which involved an extensive group participation section of "Schwoop, schwoop, schwoop." I had no idea what was going on -- and that was exactly the point. This was their thing. They were a "they" (or, actually, a "we").
From "The Gams" to origami structures to today's latest - strange monster portraits - the Herons are creating things together and inclusively. It's exciting and, occasionally, daunting as they realize their power to make things happen.
At my old school, most classes were "Mrs. Howell's class" or "Mrs. Mahone's class." My co-teacher and I had a different take. Her classroom was "Tlaquepaque" (which I remember as meaning "the best of everything" in Navajo but I can't find any support for this on-line at the moment...) and mine was the more prosaic "Room 110." The point of our classroom naming was that the class held primacy, not the teacher. When I arrived at Prairie Creek, that belief was already a part of the entire school. We were trees back then - but the idea of a class having an identity independent of the teacher was the same.
In the past two years, I've used the word "tribe" to describe the Herons - always casually and usually in response to some quirky thing that had caught their interest and become a group passion. But recently, I've been thinking a little more carefully about that word and why I've been drawn to it.
We spend the first six weeks of school focussing on developing community in our classrooms. Why? Because we spend a lot of time together and need to get along (or know what to do when we don't get along.) But a tribe goes beyond that. When you feel an identity as part of a group and feel a sense of belonging, you are more likely to contribute and more likely to feel supported enough to take risks. When you've created together - even something as seemingly frivolous as a band named (unbeknownst to you) the same as World War II slang for "legs" - you have had practice taking risks and appearing silly in front of each other. You've learned to trust each other.