How Effective Really is Community?
By: Gabriella Nobou
With Conard’s transition from Red Zone to Community at the beginning of last school year and the continuation of Community in the 2021-2022 school year, several students including myself have expressed concerns regarding the true effectiveness of the Community program in terms of prompting meaningful discussions in the classroom, and acting as an engaging experience for all students. Community’s constant reinforcement of embracing identity, intersectionality, and fulfilling the “Vision of the Graduate'' is a positive initiative taken to empower the student body and promote student success, however, these are not the only matters worthy of discussion. Considering the pressing issue of mental health in adolescents, especially given the post-isolation climate following the pandemic, it is crucial that Community additionally makes an effort to prioritize mental health and other topics that affect or interest high school students like social media and political/societal issues. Ultimately, students should have more of a say in what topics get discussed in community each Wednesday, as the program is intended to prompt student discussions, and students will feel more comfortable expressing their opinions on topics they care about.
To fix the lack of student perspectives, it would be beneficial if a student survey or poll was sent out in order to learn what topics students would prefer to discuss during each week’s community blocks, rather than discussing topics that administration assumes are most important to students. In providing students a safe space to express their concerns about topics that they find to be the most relevant, the student body will grow to better appreciate Community, rather than viewing it as a nuisance interfering with their Wednesday schedule.
In favor of Red Zone, I believe that it was beneficial to have updates and announcements on what events are going on around the school, which is conducive to a school environment in which students feel up to date on what’s going on in their school community. Students can strengthen their involvement in the Conard community when they are kept up to speed on upcoming school events, fundraisers, extracurriculars, and sports games. Red Zone also allowed for student involvement in the Conard community through participation in the Action Club, or video announcement club, which worked to inform the student body on upcoming school affairs. If Community could integrate these kinds of announcements into the weekly programs, as well as student-chosen topics of discussion, I believe it would be much more effective in terms of building a greater sense of community at Conard.
Another area of concern that I’ve observed in my own Community sessions, is that students are generally hesitant to voice their opinions on the topics of discussion. Part of the lack of participation can be attributed to students’ discomfort in voicing their opinions on topics that can be sensitive to other students (ex: gender identity, the lgbtq+ community, etc.), as well as a blatant lack of interest in the topic at hand. In this way, Community is not fully effective in terms of creating a space in which students are apt to express their own opinions and appreciate those of their classmates. Continuing to primarily center discourse around topics pertaining to identity is not effective in offering opportunities for conversation on other topics that have the potential to prompt more student engagement and enjoyment of Community.
Image Citations: (1) Depositphotos, Inc.