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Welcome to the Istation Blog

by Photo of Andi Diaz Andi Diaz on July 12, 2023

Topics: Educator Tips

How to Build a Strong Sense of Community for Today’s Teachers

Building a strong sense of community on your campus or campuses can bring big benefits to your staff and faculty of educators. Studies find that when people feel they are a part of a community at work, they experience significantly less stress and are far less likely to leave their jobs.

In a 2022 study by Harvard Business Review, researchers surveyed 1,500 participants and found that those who felt a sense of community at work “were 58% more likely to thrive at work, 55% more engaged, and 66% more likely to stay with their organization.”

Conversely, the same study discovered that a powerful sense of community at work had declined 37% from pre-pandemic levels. Lacking a sense of community can compromise personal health and organizational wellbeing. This especially rings true when we think about what teachers have had to overcome during and after the pandemic years.

Despite working in person again, many teachers feel isolated on the job. This lack of connection is driving educators into other careers and early retirement, exacerbating the teacher shortage just as students’ needs for remediation have grown.

So what can be done? How do you start to build a strong professional learning community (PLC) on your campus or campuses?

3 Steps to Build Strong Teacher Communities on Your Campus

Ideally, PLCs will evolve on your campus(es) organically. Leadership, staff, and faculty members share a common goal, and they mutually support each other’s progress. When community and connectivity is low, school leaders can take deliberate steps to create or revive this valuable asset.

The following three steps were highlighted in Istation’s webinar “3 Strategies to Build Teacher Communities on Your Campus” led by Christy Spivey, Istation’s SVP of customer success.

Watch the full webinar here.

Step 1: Establish a shared vision.

When setting up a powerful PLC, consider the first step of determining the vision for the group. This can be discussed in your first meeting. Ask members why this group is important for establishing a sense of community and what will be the outcomes of time spent together.

Even if the group’s purpose seems obvious, it’s important to brainstorm and write a formal statement together. This process does more than give direction to your school’s PLC — it helps create a feeling of personal ownership and plants the seed for a sense of community.

Step 2: Set the group structure.

Along with crafting a vision statement, setting the group’s structure is essential from the start. This involves the following steps:

  • Determine when and where the community will meet.
  • Decide whether the group will have subgroups/committees.
  • Set guidelines to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate.

Additionally the group structure might include a virtual space for staying connected between face-to-face meetings. Teachers can use a private social media page, for example, or a forum like the Red Cape Community, an interactive and collaborative community specially designed by Istation experts for all educators.

Step 3: Focus on learning.

Once the PLC is established with a goal and structure, you can focus on what learning will take place within the group. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Include equitable and inclusive practices for participation. This will require vigilance from the members and whoever is leading a meeting. To build and maintain a sense of community, everyone needs opportunities to contribute to the group’s discussions and decision-making processes.
  • Provide professional development opportunities that support a shared vision. Professional development can include learning from each other as well as from outside sources. Examples include members sharing their teaching strategies and other expertise, listening to guest speakers, and attending workshops together.
  • Focus on action and results. Effective PLCs respect their members’ time. Meetings are well-planned and relevant to the shared goal, and members are inspired to apply what they’ve learned.
  • Take time to reflect during meetings. Allow members to share experiences, challenges, and successes. The moderator can encourage teachers to reflect on their own professional growth and also discuss how the group is progressing.

As teacher shortages become more severe, it becomes essential to focus on building a sense of community on your campus. Whether you are establishing a PLC for the first time or bringing back a sense of community, we hope you can find what you are looking for to get started.

Visit our webinar page for more ideas on how to empower school leaders today.

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