The Circles Between and Beyond
Fostering Deep Connection and Community
September of 2012, I sat through a meeting that changed my life.
My oldest child was six at the time, and it was curriculum night for parents. I was excited to hear about what his teacher had in store for the year. My son was fortunate to have Mrs. Brosky, one of the most well-known and respected teachers in the district. In between the moments where she offered ideas for making the year successful, I learned one of the most important lessons of my teaching career. That evening in September nine years ago, I started to understand the circles in education.
We are in the business of building a community. We work together. We do for other people’s kids what we hope someone will do for our kids. (Mrs. Brosky) `
Circles are everywhere. I recently read Beyond the Surface of Restorative Practices by Marisol Rerucha (@MarisolRerucha) and was reminded of the circle’s significance. Marisol’s chapter on circles reminded me that Leonardo da Vince’s Vitruvian Man serves a purpose in reminding us that we are whole physiological beings represented geometrically by circles. She added that any time, regardless of the number of people who meet, circles are the perfect way to meet. In addition to the meeting, circles support healing, academic, behavior as well as social-emotional growth.
I have arranged meetings and classroom activities around the structure of a circle. Recently, I have also started to see my teaching career as a circle.
Circles also involve people over time. I have had the opportunity to experience several circles in education. Some circles are arrangements to serve a purpose during the school year, like the structure for a discussion, reading group, or writing conference. Lastly, “big picture” circles that represent what education is.
A few years ago, I had a student who was the daughter of one of my Dad’s former students a few decades back. To make the story more complete, my daughter was currently in the preschool program where my student’s mother worked. It was neat to realize that the cycle of education was never really over. Another circle I had the chance to be a part of was teaching Mrs. Brosky’s twins (mentioned above) in my middle school classroom. Starting in the year 2012, each one of my three children was blessed with the opportunity to have Mrs. Brosky as their first-grade teacher. This year my oldest son was inspired by upperclassmen on the soccer and swim team by students I had in the seventh grade. The circle of impact is endless.
Circles Remind Us We Are Alike.
Since I teach in the district where I live, it is normal to see students and families out of school. The more time I spend with parents and kids outside of the classroom, the more I realize how much we are alike. We are all trying our best, planning for the future, and looking for opportunities to embrace our best life. Whether it be at the little league fields, Halloween or pool parties, community/school activities or fundraiser events, opportunities to empower, inspire, care, and educate matters. The more I look at education as a circle as Marisol says in Beyond the Surface, the more I see the purpose in educating students between and beyond when they are officially in my class.
The Driving Force
No matter the role in education, whether we are parents, classroom teachers, administrators or, behind the scenes working on resources and curriculum, we each have a driving force that compels us to be our best. Author Marisol Rerucha says in Beyond the Surface, “My children are the driving force for my life, in all ways. Because of them, I want to be the best woman possible. In my perspective, this means embracing growth, being financially independent, engaging in my spiritual practice, helping others, and only engaging in loving and respectful relationships that honor my dignity. Because I want to be the best person possible, I also want the same for them.”
Empowering students and Communities
We empower each other as we listen and take the opportunity to share our stories. Marisol Rerucha writes, “Stories define individuals, create links to others, and add to the overall tapestry of a culture.” When we listen and share stories, we form circles and create opportunities for deep connection. Deep connections happen when we treat students like they will never really leave our classroom. I am always in awe of Kami Webb, a teacher in Texas who frequently talks about how her students will always be her kids regardless of how old they get. Her students literally strike gold when they enter her classroom. Once Ms. Webb has a student in the classroom, she has a way of making them feel loved and valued forever. Her intention to be an influential part of their lives never ends. When I connect with Ms, Webb I am reminded how amazing and important our influence as educators is. An educator is always making a circle.
Podcast host and author Lindsay Titus(@ltitus828) says that “Impact happens in the moments between the moments.”
The In-Between Moments
The in-between are the pieces that form and hold circles together. The In-between moments are the hugs from a first-grade teacher, the emails sent asking about last night’s baseball game, the visits to the track to watch a current or former student compete, smiles in the hallway, the pause after class, the hello in the grocery store, as well as the conversations that naturally find their way to us. The in-between moments are magical and the moments that sometimes matter most.
Circles are Without Limits
One of the things that I love most about the circle is that there is no beginning or end. Similarly, in education, the influence of an educator is without limits. As Marisol Rerucha and Lindsay Titus, both explain, our impact is constantly unfolding. Circles remind us that opportunities are unlimited. When students leave our classroom after a scheduled hour or year, our class attendance might not show particular names, but ultimately students never leave our classroom. Circles remind us of community.
We are in the business of building a community. We work together. We do for other people’s kids what we hope someone will do for our kids. (Mrs. Brosky)