Often when you walk into a building, whether it is a home, office, school or store, you can get a feeling of the atmosphere and community in the building. How do schools foster a structure of belonging and community? In Community – The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block (2009) speaks of creating a stronger social fabric, having groups of people together to explore possibilities rather than problems and create more ownership in the decision making process. The Collaborative Response Model framework supports building this social fabric through collaborative team conversations focused on students.
One area Block (2009) speaks of is the need for good questions to activate conversations. The learning teams discuss students in a structured yet flexible way to gather information. Using this structure, good questions are vital, in order to gain the data needed to inform decisions to support our students in the best way possible. The CRM structures allow for all members to contribute to the discussion. This helps to create a supportive collaborative environment where all people are working towards the same goal of supporting students. A group of administrators from Edmonton Public Schools developed a prompting guide for questions to be asked when responding to the needs of students in CRM meetings. Although this is not an exhaustive list, it gives teams a great place to start. You can find this list here.
Historically, schools have been the heart of our communities. Neighborhoods were built around them and most people have experience with schools in some aspect of their life. How do we increase belonging in the building and create a sense of community? Increasing voice for all, strengthens the social fabric of our environment. When people discover and share the gifts they offer and are acknowledged and valued for these, cohesiveness and trust is built. In collaborative team meetings, this trust and culture is fostered, ultimately supporting what is best for all students. Staff voice can be developed through building distributed leadership, having discussions around the possibilities rather than problems and the shift of ownership from “my students to our students”.
Block states that the overall premise is to “build the social fabric and transform isolation within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole” (2009). A collaborative response model framework does just that, bringing people together to focus on our most important goal – students.