The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

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The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

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Enhancing our community

Enhancing our community

What differentiates a school and a school community is that the latter possesses a prevailing sense of belonging that permeates throughout the administration, faculty and student body. A defined sense of community overlays another dimension to our studies and time at ASL – it creates a base from which to start, to continue, and to end; it creates an interpersonal relationship be- tween every single person who works or studies at ASL. It changes dreary, individual work into invigorating, communal efforts.

And yet our sense of community, though sometimes superficially present in pep rallies and other congregational events, such as our Halloween Assembly, is not enforced; it does not applies to everyone.

Berating the our current sense of community in no way undermines present and past efforts to create various groups and entities of extracurricular activity. We have dozens of sports teams, dozens of charity clubs, and dozens of everything in be- tween – the effort to continue work beyond 3:05 p.m. is present. But this does create a series of sub-communities, we will call them; sub communities that command a role and instill within whoever participates in them, all the while ascribing certain notions or values to those same participants.

But a community is not formed from series of sub communities. A community is so much greater – so much more powerful – simply for the reason that it would encompass everyone at ASL, define a role for each person, and ascribe qualities and principles universal to everyone within or without this building that belongs or has belonged to the community. Something that makes ASL, to some extent, perennial.

The way forward is not heavily administering community- building from the top down and it is not promoting the occasions in which an ASL core value is demonstrated – it is by opening a dialogue pervasive to the entire school, and letting it flourish from there. In order to create, and not manufacture, a community, we must bring everyone together and let dialogue flourish with no obstruction, with no structure and see where it takes us.

A tangible solution is currently under consideration by Principal Jack Phillips: Let us have a “town hall”. On certain days of our busy calendars, members of each, or most, of ASL’s sub communities would be present and we would talk. As simplistic as dialogue might sound, it is the essential foundation of every prestigious democratic government of the past and of the present.

Voices of individuals from discernible friend groups, discernible school clubs, and discernible sport teams would be given a more ideal platform to be heard. By moving from lecture to dialogue, we would be changing any regular assembly into an ASL forum. The dynamic of High School-wide events would morph from take-notes-and-pay-attention to what-do-you-think- needs-to-be-said?

For this reason, Phillips’ Thanksgiving assembly is one that deserves praise. For 15 minutes, students from every grade and teachers from every department stepped in front of the High School to tell the audience what they were thankful for. For 15 minutes, the ASL High School formed a distinct community.

Sub communities are a beautiful feature for our education and our ASL identity. But allowing for them to thrive on a more personal level is what will move us towards being a community.

With this notion, we support Phillips’ consideration of establishing High School advisories. In an effort to establish a thor- ough a sense of shared purpose, Phillips believes that bringing together students and teachers every now and then will help nurture community.

Still at a stage of consideration, we recommend the advisories should meet once per eight-day cycle, be made up of students from all four grades, have a teacher for a moderator, and be preserved for the entire year. Many of these guidelines mirror the ideology behind Alternatives, but they remedy two certain flaws: The sub community of an advisory would be one that persists for an entire year, if not more, and it would not be limited to any certain topic. It would be a system that fosters camaraderie between teachers and students, athletes and intellectuals, boys and girls, upperclassmen and underclassmen. It would be the basis of a community.

Well-established sub communities complemented by every- body-led discussions: That is how we will find out who we, as the ASL High School, are. That is how we will build our community.

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