Hi everyone! This is my first blog post here about COMMUNITY! I am fortunate to feel part of multiple communities, many that I have embraced simply for having moved to Boone. I am originally from Salt Lake City, UT and was part of somewhat marginalized communities there. Of course, the largest, most prominent community was that of the LDS/Mormon church. Growing up (and even as an adult), I was often ostracized because I was not part of “the church.” In some ways, that made me rebel a bit (and by “rebel” I mean be even more Catholic-y). In other ways, it made me really appreciate communities where I was welcome and appreciated.
In Utah, because it was such a big city, I found it hard to find communities in which to fully engage. Outside of University life and teaching, family and lifelong friends, community was not something I was actively seeking, but it also didn’t seem to be a “thing.” Since moving to Boone, I have found multiple communities that are so important to my life.
I guess, at this point, I should explain my photo and my definition of community. I think of community as a sort of fellowship or a group of people who share common goals, interests, values, etc. The photo I have included in this post is from a community in Boone that has fully welcomed me and made me truly understand what it means to serve and give back to the community that “feeds” my heart and soul. F.A.R.M. Cafe (Feed All Regardless of Means) is a community I joined in 2012. After a year of volunteering, I was asked to be on the Board of Directors, which I gratefully accepted. I have been on the Board ever since and continue to volunteer. The Cafe has come a LONG way since it began and is thriving. Their mission includes REAL.GOOD.FOOD (healthy, homecooked, local, fresh) and REAL.GOOD.COMMUNITY (where everyone is welcome, regardless of means, ability, anything really). As part of that community, I have met people I never would have otherwise, I have grown to understand and appreciate people for who they are, not the disability, mental illness, poverty, etc. that often defines them.
In terms of education, the community I have felt immersed in since my arrival in Boone is the middle grades community. This is an international community of teacher scholars who truly care about young adolescents and the unique needs they bring to the classroom. While many people see adolescence as a tumultuous, hormone driven, difficult age group, I truly love it! I taught middle school for 11 years in Utah and, fortunately, now get to prepare others to teach young adolescents. Our community has a shared mission, vision, and passion. We believe young adolescents deserve an education that is relevant, exploratory, challenging, and integrated. We share a mission to educate the general population about young adolescents and a vision for an education for them that takes into consideration their physical, mental, emotional, and social development. In our program at AppState, we strive to model community the way it exists in effective middle schools. We incorporate middle level philosophy in our own classrooms – advising students in personal and professional issues, advocating for them to meet whatever needs they bring or encounter, and creating a teaming environment, both among faculty and with students. Our cohort model allows us to have a very close relationship with our students, and relationships are the heart of middle level education. In addition, we believe in creating a community of practice where we teach and learn simultaneously beside our students.
I could go on and on… I am hoping that, as we begin to look at programmatic changes, we can incorporate more diverse communities into our students’ experience. This NYC experience will not only allow me to explore new content that is relevant to middle level educators (and everyone, because of the politics, social justice issues, and cultural stereotypes that persist even 15+ years later), but also investigate ways I might expand our concept of community to include other perspectives, lived experiences, and approaches to middle level education.