Dec 1, 2011
Comments Off on Disconnected Within the Community

Disconnected Within the Community

I have been engaged in the process of making my classes student-directed, inquiry-based communities of learning.  I have worked hard to build the sense of camaraderie and  ownership in the room for every student. I think it’s a process worth following.

But then, as I walked through the downtown core of my community, I see many people who are disconnected. I see people struggling to make their way through this life while social services are available, opportunities can be had, but whatever it is, they resist the feeling of community. They never feel like they belong.

Is this true of the one or two of the thirty kids in my room? Does the learning community mimic the broader community? Will there always be the marginal ones?

When classes are quantitative, students assigned to a seat and sitting in rows, they are easier to manage. Keeping track of them is normalized. When involved in a dynamic, inquiry based classroom, it’s not easy to keep track. That may be part of the struggle for teachers and why they are reluctant to “buy-in”. The management is not inherent.

Does giving up control, offering autonomy and parsing ownership provide more opportunity for the disconnected to stay disconnected? Or does it give a student a better chance to hide?

As school work moves more in the direction of connected collaboration, does this offer students more opportunity to get credit without making the demonstration?

Some top songwriters get credit for writing a song in which they’ve only polished one line. Is this happening in my open, distributed classroom?


I had this great conversation with a student the other day who has been struggling in my class. This student felt disconnected, was uninterested and proceeded to ask for “more regular English”.  As this conversation continued, I asked this if they felt they were a member of the community and they said, “No. I don’t know anyone in this class.”

“How can that be? We have done so much team-building, group work and in fact, you’ve done real well on some of those projects.”

“Yeah but … these aren’t my people.”

To a certain extent, I understand. Then, on the other hand, I don’t get it. I watch this students interact with classmates and this student is fine. Not the most talkative, but not the quietest. This student, on the outside, seems connected. But, obviously, doesn’t feel it.

How am I going to connect this student with our learning community? How could I have missed this?

That said, I do take solace that this student felt comfortable coming to talk with me, though it is more than half way through the semester.


Does the nature of a student-directed, inquiry-based learning community lead to some members feeling disconnected?



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