The Yin Circle: Community in the Classroom

The largest number of people sitting single file in a gymnasium, as we did for the community meeting at the alternative school, is about 150. This is also a reasonable number of students in the school, or section of the school itself. With a little practice you can just about learn everyone’s name. To aid in recognition, place photos displayed on the walls with printed or ascribed names beneath and you’re off to a good start. We used one person, one vote, to encourage inclusion.

Similarly, in this day of voting rights violations, it would be useful to practice balloting say in October following the various voting practices of communities across the nation. Colleges should follow suit. College students need not go home even if that threatens the politicians in their new communities. Americans travel. They need to carry their ‘say so’ with them.

The largest circle that can be effectively used in the usual high school classroom in single or staggered double rows is 20 to 25 persons. This should define ideal size. Bill Gates’ error when he couldn’t find that smaller classes made a serious difference was that he was expecting the lecture style to continue, even as he was reinventing schooling with his inventions.

If a class is to be actively learning, they must start practicing ASAP.

The Name Game:The first person says his name. The second says the first person’s and her own name and so forth around the circle until the last person says them all.

A good start. Want more sophistication? Make it a cocktail party….okay that’s apple juice not liquor, but the hors d’oeuvres can be real. Perhaps have each student write an answer to a question first. What are you most looking forward to studying this year? What’s your favorite school activity? What’s one thing about yourself you’re really proud of? Now the person introduces himself and responds to the question. Hopefully, this provides a starting point for ongoing conversation.

If you want to make it about your subject, do. What book did you read this summer? What did you like about it? Who’s your favorite author?

A Variation: a set of file cards with single words or phrases written clearly on each are shuffled and drawn, one to each person. A response to the card is expected.

Inclusive, responsive, engaged is your goal. Each person with a say so. The community begins.

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