Weekday on Instagram

April 26, 2019 4:33 pm

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Beloved Community

October 30, 2018 3:50 pm

The Weekday School is a Progressive, Play-Based school.  Even though it seems like play based schools would naturally be Progressive, many schools that call themselves play based and give children plenty of time to play still use a traditional approach.  In a traditional classroom, the teachers are authority figures who direct the children’s experience.  Progressives, by contrast, give children opportunities to exercise authority over their own experience.
When children experiment with art materials or build with unit blocks, the results of their work are self determined instead of predetermined by a teacher’s agenda. Progressive Education is most commonly associated with the work of John Dewey, who opened a laboratory school at the University of Chicago during the Gilded Age then taught at Columbia University from 1904 until the 1930s.  Progressive educators emphasize collaboration and cooperative learning and believe that school is a form of community life instead of a separate place where certain lessons and habits are to be learned (Dewey, 1897).

At Weekday, teachers use emotionally responsive, developmentally appropriate, reflective practice to help children learn to operate in a larger, social group.  Part of that process involves helping children resolve conflicts in a way that leads to cooperation and friendship.  Years ago, when Martin Luther King talked about Beloved Community, he said that conflict was an inevitable part of human experience. He was talking about violent Grown-Up conflicts, but the principles of peaceful resolution and reconciliation apply just as well to little kids. It can get pretty intense on the playground, and Weekday teachers are there every day moving children through the emotionally charged landscape of conflict into reconciliation and friendship. In the block area and in Dramatic Play, at the play dough table and during circle time, Weekday children are part of a Beloved Community where kindness and compassion can turn opponents into friends.

I never actually heard of Martin Luther King’s concept of Beloved Community until I read bell hooks’ Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope.  hooks reminds us that before King was assassinated, he was beginning to see that people could agree to the simple act of coming together, but that would not necessarily make a community.  She says, “To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination” (p. 36).  Like Martin Luther King, bell hooks is concerned with showing adults how to unlearn the attitudes and beliefs that interfere with the creation of Beloved Community.   At Weekday, we’re creating one of the children’s earliest experiences of community.  We hope the respect and acceptance they experience in their relationships with us and with each other give them a healthy dose of confidence when they are confronted with conflict in the future.

As Grown Ups looking at contemporary culture, we see domination in every direction, but a better world is possible.  Raising children can be a call to adventure, a challenge to bring that better world into being.  And school really can be a place where parents and teachers come together to create a Beloved Community that gives children a strong foundation as they go out into the world.