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Collaboration: The Classroom and the Community

Educators change lives every day in ways large and small. Often, those changes are focused on the classroom. But not always. The very best educators work their magic everywhere. That’s what we found when we asked nominees for our LifeChanger of the Year educator program to reflect on the best approaches to their work.

What is collaboration?  My favorite definition has to be, “the action of working with someone to produce or create something. “

What is meaning of the word community?  According to Oxford dictionary, community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. 

What do these two things have to do with the classroom?  Well, let’s just say a whole lot. 

I am a high school teacher and the founder of two nonprofit organizations.  I teach Health Science Theory Clinical Rotation, grooming our future health care professionals.  My role as a teacher and a community advocate allows me to have a better understanding of how great of an impact the collaboration between the classroom and community can have.  My personal slogan is, “Fusing education and community to build a better tomorrow.”

The Classroom:

I am a fifth year secondary teacher.  Over the past five years, I have seen and heard a great deal from watching and listening to my students and colleagues.  I have seen the effects of students, who have all of the potential in the world but lack the confidence and drive to give it their all. 

The reason is that they are tired from having to go to school every day and then go work full-time jobs during the evening hours and weekends.  I have seen the effects of students who are basically parenting themselves and are pretty much at their breaking point.  This can cause them to act out, lash out, or portray behavior that leaves the appearance that the student just doesn’t care.  I have seen the effects of homeless students who are doing everything to make sure that their classmates don’t find out.

These kind of things makes me question everything.  I have reflected a lot over the differences in education from when I was a teenager in high school.  There is a drastic difference in what I remember and what I see now with my students.

I call my classroom the “Safe Zone,” a place where you can leave all of your problems at the door; a place where once you step over the threshold, you are free to be “a regular” kid/student; a place where I am preparing you to become more and help you fulfill your dreams and smash your goals in preparation of being the next community leaders and doers.

The Community:

Now you may ask, what does the community have to do with the classroom? The community is what we are preparing our students to be a productive part of. 

The community holds a major piece to the success of our students.  The community is who will benefit from the great happenings in the classroom.  We need the community to be in support of our classrooms. 

The students are learning more than just reading, math, science and social studies.  We are offering our students programs that are going to allow them to enter directly into the workforce out in their communities.  We need our communities to freely and genuinely offer their services and support to teachers, our students, and our classrooms. 

One of my nonprofit organizations is called H.U.G.S. Unlimited Mentoring Program.  H.U.G.S. stands for Helping Underserved Girls Succeed.  This program was launched from a need that I saw with my own students and just observing all students. 

H.U.G.S is a community program that is offered to girls ages 15 – 18.  When I think about when I reach out to organizations and businesses in the community in an effort to bring the community into the classroom, oftentimes the efforts are unsuccessful.  Which is discouraging.

If I could have my way, I would go door to door and rally all that I could to become more visible and vocal!  Think about how awesome the lifelong effect that that could have in creating a strong bond and collaboration between the classroom and the community.

Learn more about Sherita Harmon on her LifeChanger of the Year profile.