Community, by Wendy Geise

Recently while preparing for our upcoming Kindergarten unit, “My Community,” I paused to reflect on what community means, exactly, in the year 2014. Community. Webster’s defines it as:

  • a group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood)
  • a group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.
  • a group of nations
  • species living in a geographic area

I just can’t help but wonder if community has the same meaning today, as it did 10, 50, 100 years ago? In this fast-paced world, we have grown accustomed to having everything we need just a click away. Information, shopping, online chat rooms, take-out, college courses, you name it! Technology definitely has its advantages….and drawbacks. While cell phones, texting, Facebook, Twitter, and email make communication easier, they also make life a bit less personal and somewhat isolating. Give me a choice between a <3 on Facebook and a hug in real life, I’ll take the hug every time!

As educators we are students of psychology and understand the importance of belonging; of community. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is something we are all aware of in our daily interactions with others. Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review describes an individual’s most basic needs must be met before higher order thinking and learning can take place. According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups-community.

It seems, this past week, Mother Nature has spoken up in more ways than one. Snow, sleet, freezing rain, and extensive power outages have caused inconveniences and wreaked havoc on life as we know it! Living without email, Facebook, Twitter, have been proved annoying, but not so troublesome as life without heat, water, and electricity. In an age where neighbors barely know each other suddenly we found ourselves relying on each other for survival. I have to say I liked the sense of community!

In my own rural neighborhood, where houses are acres apart, we came together with chainsaws, helping hands, and support to free cars trapped by fallen trees and find comfort in knowing we were not alone in our discomfort. Community.

OCS is a community within a community and one that I am very thankful for. Dirty, tired, and freezing cold, I came to school in search of a hot shower and warmth and found it not only in the warm, sunlit (heated) rooms, but in that sense of community, surrounded by other teachers and their families seeking basic comforts as well. It was fun to take a break from my normal, hectic routine and take time to visit and get to know each other better while waiting turns for hot showers. I even had teachers I barely know, offering their homes to my family and pets! Community.

I believe that nature has a way of “resetting” each of us. Stripped of all modern conveniences, events such as those we experienced this past week, bring us back to a simpler time, where people helped people and folks knew their neighbors. I know I felt closer to nature hauling water from my rain barrels to flush toilets! How many of us felt we were in “survival mode?” I am thankful for neighbors at home and OCS and for the sense of community I feel in both.