"We can work to change the embedded structures so that our schools become more hospitable places for student and adult learning. But little will really change unless we change ourselves."
-Barth, 1991, p. 128
A true learning community must be intentional, inclusive, aware, connected and realistic. There are many challenges in bringing together diverse groups of people to work, learn, and grow together. In an educational setting a learning community must begin with a shared understanding of the population being served by schools in the area and must be lead by leadership that is committed and open to sharing ideas for the common good of students. I loved the quote on page 38 that suggests that success lies in the ability for school leaders to transform their thinking ". . . from accountability as a matter of compliance to thinking about accountability as their moral, professional responsibility." This chapter really gets at the crux of true leadership in suggesting that true leadership comes from within the leader, and is not a set of motions that a leader puts him or herself through. When it comes to looking at the achievement of all students within a community, the leadership has to have the ability to look beyond the circumstances and ask, "What are we going to do to ensure student achievement despite these circumstances?" A community is just like anything else... the situation is what it is. Judgement and the throwing up of hands doesn't help in any way. A community needs leadership that can approach the situation with an acceptance of what is- and the determination to see what can be pulled together through learning, community, collaboration and shared vision to enact and implement true change that leads to achievement for as many students as possible.
I have worked as part of several learning communities through the span of my almost 20-year career- each of them different. My current school site is a school of choice, and attracts a variety of students for a variety of reasons. It is probably the most diverse group of students with diverse backgrounds and circumstances I have ever worked with. Fortunately our current leader has a heart of gold and carries empathy with her wherever she goes- which balances well with her business sense and ability to run a school building, and leads to her making student-centered decisions that consistently improve student achievement and student experience at our school. Like most schools though, we still have a lot of work to do. We have an extremely close and caring staff who have been together through several iterations of our school plan and several changes in leadership. As a staff and learning community we are in need of a consistent mission and vision for our students, or as mentioned on page 45, we have to ask ourselves, "What is the business of our business?" It is my hope that in this coming school year we hone in and define that vision and purpose so that it can be incorporated into every single aspect of what we do as a school and a learning community. I hope to see our parents and families come to feel welcome and valuable to our learning community as well. Clearly the best thing for students is for their community, parents, school leaders, teachers, and peers to share an understanding of community culture and circumstances and be able to keep that in mind as we work to educate students and lead them to achievement and success. The lens of cultural proficiency might help our learning community stay on an authentic path, and not fall into the trap of just going through the motions for compliance.