I got lucky this semester. I’m teaching two undergraduate courses, and in both of them, my students have bonded in a way that makes my job easier. They start talking to each other before class begins, and are still talking as they walk out the door. They are excited to share their views on the readings and participate eagerly in class discussions. It’s great.
I’m not under the illusion that I had much to do with creating that dynamic. Sometimes a group of students just clicks. But I recognize how a sense of community among students helps me — when students enjoy coming to class, when they trust each other, when they seem to genuinely like each other, they are more likely to learn more.
Real learning is a trip to an unknown destination. It involves revising your previous beliefs in ways that can be
difficult, frightening, or painful. A cohesive and supportive community can ease that process for students. Even when
faculty aren’t as lucky as I’ve been this term, we should be looking for ways to build such a community — one that
offers a safe environment for students to do the sort of experimentation and risk-taking that is necessary for learning