Being part of a school that offers a positive, tight-knit, community can be a significant experience for all students. But the creation of a sense of community takes time, effort, and the right environment. Smaller classroom sizes help facilitate a setting for creating a positive community in the classroom.
Why is community important?
When people feel like they belong to a community, they are more likely to participate in that community positively. This is true for kids in their school community. For example:
- When students feel like they belong, they are more invested, are more likely to engage in positive social behaviors, and care about their peers.
- Students who feel like they are a valued member of their school are less likely to bully others and more likely to engage in thoughtful conflict resolution when it arises.
- When problematic issues occur, students are more likely to use teachers and administrators as a resource and trust the processes set in place to address the situation.
All of these positive outcomes translate into skills and resources that can be used into adulthood. When kids can learn skills like problem-solving, conflict resolution, and empathy in a supportive environment, they are more likely to internalize healthy social-emotional expectations and feel comfortable using them in diverse situations.
How does class size impact community building?
When we have the opportunity to get to know someone well, we often feel more connected to them. In the school setting, it can be a challenge to have enough time and opportunities for peers to build relationships. Having small class sizes can help facilitate an environment where students can get to know each other well.
When class sizes get too large, it's easy for students to feel lost. Smaller class sizes, where students share space with only 8 or 12 students, allow for relationship building to be more manageable. There is time to talk with everyone and engage in activities where all students participate actively. There are fewer opportunities for cliques to form in smaller classrooms and more opportunities for students to find commonalities and appreciate unique traits with all of their classroom peers.
Do student-teacher relationships change?
A small classroom is also helpful for teachers. Teachers are better able to get to know each student and facilitate experiences that encourage relationships and classroom unity. Relationship building can be more of a priority since less time is spent on traditional classroom management. Smaller class sizes mean students are not competing for attention, so they have more opportunities to get to know their teachers well.
Increased sense of community and smaller classroom sizes go hand in hand. More attention can be paid to relationships and to practicing positive social-emotional skills that enhance teen learning. Students who engage in their school experience are more likely to thrive socially and academically, which leads to positive outcomes in school and beyond.
Community is built on empathy. As students interact with peers in small classes, they will come to understand and appreciate the differences among them. Small schools or micro schools with innovative approaches to learning can make a big difference in the lives of students, families, and the adults of tomorrow.