Thursday, September 1, 2022


Hello Sojourners,

I so appreciated Maureen's invitation to write about community for Spiritual Journey Thursday. One of the special aspects of the community where I work is that we get an annual summer reset. Students, teachers, administrators, and staff members all get two months of time that our school is not in session. Students get an eight-week reset, professionals get varying amounts of time to get away and recover from the work, and the building itself has several weeks of silence.

When we re-open, it's with excitement for moving up a grade or, starting a fresh year of teaching, a new classroom, locker, or office. It's a celebration.

I've been taking an online course, Digital Detectives, with Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins. It's fantastic and I highly recommend that teachers take one of their free courses (just need to buy the book). We were discussing all the ways that technology in the hands of students is good and bad and I found myself commenting to the group, 

                "We have to play the game we're in, not the game we would love to play."

I find myself coming back to that phrase today as I consider the journey to be a trustworthy member of my community.

Yesterday, I asked a student their name. This led to manipulation and defiance on the part of the student. I could get upset with their refusal to give me their name. Or, I could understand that a gaping hole of mistrust lies between us and attempt to bridge it.

If that student and I can work together to repair that pothole in our path, we become stronger for our community. We help others be safe and strong too.

After a chat with the school's head principal, I walked the student back to class. I was stumped as to how to begin a relationship. I began abruptly,  I have a cat. His name is Ira.

The student looked sideways at me through slitted eyelids.

I continued, when my cat sits on my lap he purrs so hard it tickles. I love it.


Do you have a pet? 

The students said in a voice so quiet I could bearly hear it...I have a guinea pig.

Oh! Do you like to snuggle your guinea pig?

Yeah. smile...


Building community is very much a "pantser" experience for me. I just have to do what I can at the moment to repair and build with few resources at hand. Today, I will make sure to say hello to this student by name. I will ask about the guinea pig. I will find something new to say.

I thank God that my path to teaching has been something possible for me. These moments reinforce my spiritual journey and remind me that I'm doing good work, work I should be doing even if it's baffling at times. 


  1. God bless you for building community with middle schoolers. They are a tough crowd. It is amazing, though, how a simple act of connection like "I have a cat" works to break down those barriers. You are doing good work, my friend. Take a peek at my post that features a poem by you for me. 😍

  2. Trust is an important part in community building. We need to feel safe in giving our trust to someone new. Sometimes, as you have shown, trust needs to be earned by taking small steps.

  3. "I could understand that a gaping hole of mistrust lies between us and attempt to bridge it." It sounds like you are using my OLW (generosity) to dig deeper and build a bridge. Thank you for your example! (Also, Ira is a great name for a cat!)

  4. Excellent testament to how to be a positive part of a community - yes, we must play the game we are in! I admire how you challenged yourself to take a more positive perspective on this student - "I could understand that a gaping hole of mistrust lies between us and attempt to bridge it." What a gift this is to the student - and to you - and, I think, to the community, as a whole.

  5. Linda, kudos to you. Some children need extra care than others. I had a HS English teacher in summer school that did not know how to relate to her rather rowdy and somewhat defiant summer school group who failed the Regents. I tried to help her and even modeled lessons. I found that relationship building is a key component for a trusting community environment. You found a wonderful way to get your student to open up. Have a wonderful end to this week and enjoy your weekend.

  6. Wow, I'm so impressed with your pantser response. It's not easy to problem solve on the fly, but you did a great job reaching out to this student with four little words, I have a cat. Repair and build is a daily challenge and you are doing it well. Kudos!

  7. That last line about doing good work even if it is baffling at time is a thing to hold onto for sure: Believe. Even when it doesn't make sense. Keep trying to do the right thing. This story about the defiant student with a pet guinea pig is one all teachers should hear... for underneath the behaviors is a person with needs and a heart that loves. "I will find something new to say" - the foundation communities are relationships, and relationships are built on the understanding that someone cares and will go the extra mile for you. I hope you will write about this student in the weeks to come. I want to know how things go!

  8. It takes skill to connect with students just as you did. I love how you connected your online community learning with the in-person experience--we have to play the game we're in. You've given me lots to think about with this post, as I start to see my students back in the library on a regular basis beginning this very week--and I know there are at least two or three potholes I need to navigate for the sake of community.


Friendly, positive comments and feedback are always welcome here. Please let me know I'm not just whistling in the dark!