A Story of Friendship and Community in the Classroom

A Story of Friendship and Community in the Classroom

Picture it: the first day of class. This is a class of all sorts, but students shamble through the doors, find their clique, and pack closely together forming their own separate groups. You have the non-conformists with outrageous hair and piercings and tattoos, the serious young professionals, the non-traditional students with children, the athletes, the goths, the girly-girls, and the class clowns. A couple of unfortunate souls select places separated from the others. They don’t form groups; though, it can be difficult to determine why. Great teachers understand that learning doesn’t occur in solitude. Developing a learning group provides a student with study buddies, people to confirm the dates and specifics of assignments, and a sense of well-being and self-esteem. Not long ago, classes were mostly homogenous, full of young white men with shared background experiences. Nowadays, many classes look like a crazy cacophony of people and personalities: sensitive and difficult, interested and laid-back, shy and outgoing, optimistic and cynical. I anticipated there would be difficulty in getting these groups and isolated individuals to intermingle. We were less than a minute in class, but an unseen force of suspicion and distrust was rumbling through it just beyond the realm of hearing. Perhaps it was fear and nerves that allowed me to hear it. They were all muttering amongst themselves, all except the two isolated individuals. These two, a young man with a bald and elaborately tattooed head and another young man sporting an entire cowboy get-up, sat in the back, glaring at each other. The problem: how do you encourage these people to connect outside of their groups? How...