by – Meredith Ross-Chong, PhD.
We talk about building community in our classrooms which helps students have a greater sense of belonging. That, in turn, is linked to motivation and academic persistence. All good. A class with a greater sense of community has higher energy making it easier and more enjoyable to teach. A win for the students and a win for faculty, but that shouldn’t be the end of the discussion. The value of community reaches into the faculty ranks as well. We ALL need connections, to feel like we’re among friends and that we belong. As faculty, we are mindful of the atmosphere and personality of our classrooms, but what about the atmosphere and personality of our own academic environments? Are we connected to colleagues? Do we have a healthy balance of professional endeavors and personal engagement?
So many faculty perceive that they go to their campuses, teach their courses and hardly interact with humanity outside of the classroom context. This is especially worrisome for the adjunct cadre who do their best in the classroom, semester after semester and yet, feel very disconnected personally. They may be disenfranchised, Lone Rangers without even a Tonto riding beside them. Similar to the changed dynamics among students where community is nurtured, faculty would surely benefit from a sense of increased connection. Let’s put the COMMUNITY back in Community College!
But how? Clearly faculty connectivity doesn’t just happen on its own, just as a positive, welcoming dynamic doesn’t automatically occur in every classroom. A sense of cohort doesn’t happen without some strategic facilitation and intentional effort. Who’s in charge of that?
Each one of us. We each need to take responsibility for turning what we need into a reality. Take responsibility. Step up. ACC has many organizations and opportunities to plug-in and develop connections. Participate, apply, volunteer. Attend the Celebration of Great Teaching Retreat in the spring. Apply for Project ACC. Attend the Summer Institute, a workshop, a training session. Lead a workshop. Serve on a committee. Start something.
The Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (http://sites.austincc.edu/fctl/) is a GOLD MINE of opportunity to learn, collaborate, gain new skills and ideas, recharge your professional battery, and make connections with other faculty. Take a step, invest in an activity outside of your set responsibilities. Reach out in your department or across departments. Make connections on your campus. Investigate and tap into some of the opportunities ACC offers. You will benefit from stepping outside your comfort zone and connecting. And our college will benefit too.
Let’s put the COMMUNITY back in Community College! And remember, you can’t have community without U. (okay, I know that was so cheesy it’s dripping off the screen. I was just seeing if you were still with me)