Building Conscious Communities: A Framework for Wellness
As we are faced with troubling and uncertain times, we seek solutions that will fill the gaps being created in new circumstances. Building a thriving conscious community begins with the examination of each individual and reflecting on how we know and understand ourselves. Our togetherness can be explicitly and intentionally grown to build a community that provides for all of its members.
We recognize the need to support every individual in our organization including students, staff and leaders. When supporting the needs of everyone to build a conscious community we focus on the individual parts and how they impact one another. We view this idea as a rope bridge:
The components of a bridge represent three aspects of community. The deck of the bridge represents the individual along with each person’s need for fulfilment in intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical realms. Our innate desire to connect with others in creating a sense of togetherness, is represented by the guide ropes which connect and support each individual to the next. The support ropes serve as a representation of community, bringing everyone together with a greater purpose and supporting each individual as well as each connection.
Resources and Samples:
This video is a recording from the Ever Active Schools Conference in which Kathleen Robertson and Lorna Hewson share an analogy of a playground plank bridge representing parts of ourselves and our communities. When the planks on our bridge are shifting, our relationships and our community act as supports to help stabilize us. (39 minutes)
The deck of the bridge represents the individual. The planks represent 4 aspects of our well being - intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical. At times, our bridge may sway due to factors outside of our control or unforeseen circumstances and we may lean more heavily on one plank than another to come back to a place of wellness. A key to coming back to stability on our personal bridge is by practicing being present in the moment.
Resources and Samples:
|Bridge Reflection - When considering our personal wellness in terms of a rope bridge, we consider our experiences and circumstances that influence our reactions and how we move through a negative experience to wellness by balancing our bridge.|
Mindful presence is key in maintaining our balance on the bridge. Mindfulness enables us to be aware of our thinking and actions instead of simply responding. Developing mindfulness as a trait does not come naturally for most people it needs to be honed and developed through a personal mindfulness practice. Mindful presence needs practice to develop. It only requires a few minutes of stillness and awareness of thoughts as they happen. Daily short periods of meditation are effective when consistently practiced.
Many apps are available to support meditation practice, which are widely accessible through an internet search.
|Building Habits - Building and maintaining a new habit can be challenging but success is more likely if you intentionally decide that you will build a mindful practice, and put some supports in place for yourself to meet that goal. This reflection tool provides a number of considerations while you build your habits for mindfulness.|
|Setting Intentions Throughout the Day - Use the template to determine ways in which you can set your intentions throughout the day.|
|Reflecting on Conflict - This tool provides a number of reflection questions that could be considered following the engagement in a conflict. Take time to consider what happened, how it made you feel and how to move forward.|
Listening is a skill developed over time and conscious listening can enhance your understanding of situations as well as provide support within relationships.
|Levels of Listening - Use this template to think about how you typically use the four levels of thinking in various situations.|
|Personal Reflection on Levels of Listening - Use this template to reflect on levels of listening. What level do you usually use in various situations? Is there a way that might be better?|
A community is the sum of interactions between its members. The guide ropes on the bridge represent our relationships. Although creating thriving communities is much more than relationships, our interactions with others are a determining factor in whether our community can truly innovate, create, and thrive from both a staff and student perspective.
Intentionally focusing on togetherness means maintaining a sense of self awareness while interacting with others. When this is present, interactions are respectful and inclusive. When we have developed self awareness, we expand our awareness to include others and create togetherness and become mindful of actions we take.
Resources and Samples:
As a teacher you are both a leader of connection and a receiver of connection. Within your class, you lead and model connection as you intentionally create a caring and safe classroom culture. However, there are times when your bridge is swaying and you need to reach out and seek connection from colleagues.
|Intentional Connection - Often we see videos of teachers fist bumping or shaking hands with students as they come in the door. Finding meaning in these moments beyond an activity to a purposeful connection. Connecting with students individually in the morning doesn’t need to be a handshake or fist bump. It can be any positive interaction that recognizes the student as an individual and lets them know you care and are glad to see them, for example, a greeting by name and a question that communicates that you understand them as a person.|
“Good morning, John! How did your first hockey practice go last night?” accompanied by eye contact and intentional listening is an example of a simple interaction that creates connection.
Morning connection is not the only time that students reconnect with the adult in the room. There may be various times throughout the day where you are able to maximize reconnection.
|Building Meaningful Relationships with Students - Early in the school year is a critical time to connect with students and begin to understand who they are and what is important to them. Considering and carrying out a plan for aspects of building relationships is helpful to ensure that all students are part of the classroom community.|
|Building Meaningful Relationships with Families and Caregiver - Families and caregivers are a key part of the classroom community and considering how to purposefully get to know them and build positive connection.|
|Planning Template for Parent/Caregiver Conference - This template can support a teacher in planning a challenging conversation with a parent or guardian. Planning intentionally to begin with connection and positive conversation, choosing one goal and presenting a potential plan and including opportunities for the adult to support the goal at home, allowing time for discussion with plans for follow up and ending on a positive note can take some uncertainty out of the conversation.|
|Purposeful Teaching of Collaboration Skills - Students need to learn how to work in collaboration with others. These skills need to be explicitly taught.|
|Give One and Get One - What are ways that you can maintain presence of self and others at work? Provide some examples that work for you and feel free to take away some ideas that will support your work.|
“Conscious community means that the well-being of the consciousness of all constituents is the highest priority. Implied is that nourishing consciousness leads to the best possible outcomes of all community members.”
Luvmour, B. (2011, August 20). What is conscious community in the field of education (and parenting)? Cooperative Catalyst.
A conscious community has a sense of purpose in meeting the comprehensive needs of each member within the community. Before our communities can thrive, the well being of the members need to be tended to. Communities are made up of individuals and when each individual has a supported bridge, they can bring their best to the whole and strengthen the group. We choose to support each other because we recognize our interconnectedness and our moral purpose drives us to focus on our best self, our connections with others and ultimately our desire to thrive.
Resources and Samples
|Strengthening the Guide Ropes with Colleagues - These reflective questions can be used to identify personal strengths and areas of development when recognizing the role each adult plays in creating a strong community.|
Literature and Research
Palmer, P. (1998). Thirteen ways of looking at community. Centre for courage and renewal. http://www.couragerenewal.org/PDFs/13-Ways-of-Looking-at-Community-ParkerJPalmer.pdf
Parker Palmer describes what true community looks like where everyone is valued and heard. Connection and authenticity are at the heart of the community. Each member is responsible for their own personal work and understands the nature of an interconnected collective.
Palmer, P. (2000). Leading from within. Let your life speak: Listening for the voice of vocation (p. 1). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. http://www.couragerenewal.org/PDFs/Parker-Palmer_leading-from-within.pdf
In this chapter Parker Palmer discusses authenticity in leadership and its power to touch hearts, and in turn touch the world. It is necessary for any leader to examine their own shadows and make choices about what they project on others.
Brown, B. (2018) Dare to lead. Random House.
Dare to lead discusses the journey to becoming a courageous leader - one who lifts others and brings their true self to the table. Brene Brown shares the necessity of examining values and allows oneself to be vulnerable in order to lead from the heart. A leader is ““anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”Dare to lead discusses the journey to becoming a courageous leader - one who lifts others and brings their true self to the table. Brene Brown shares the necessity of examining values and allows oneself to be vulnerable in order to lead from the heart
Scharmer, O. (2018). The essentials of theory U. Barrett-Koehler.
Theory U describes a framework for generating new possibilities with a vision of where we are in relation to a larger world ecosystem. Otto Scharmer proposes that what prevents us from growing and keeps us repeating patterns that don’t apply to today’s world is lack of self awareness as to what is causing our actions, and to what we are paying attention to. He outlines processes for leaders to move through this.
Mitchell-Pellett, MA. (2020). Introduction: Leading with heart: Self care, collective care, and justice. Leading with Heart: Enacting self-care, collective care, and justice. (1-18) Word & Deed.
This collection details an overview of the concept of heart led leadership and shares the role of leader as a lifter and enabler of others to grow and contribute their own gifts through mindful seeing, hearing, understanding and engagement. A variety of professionals share their personal journeys towards heart centered leadership.
Wellness and Community Blogs to Learn More
|Navigating the Bridge: A Framework for Creating Community - this blog describes a framework in which components of self exist within a community and shares the idea that when parts of ourselves are not in balance, we can support one another.|
|Creating a Clear Picture of Community - this blog establishes the foundational understanding of a conscious, flourishing community.|