24 November, 2022

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts - a reflection on community

BetterTogether_Community-at-LCIS - BetterTogether_Andy
Working together for the success of all
"Whenever I talk about LCIS, I notice how frequently we use words like "family" and "community" to describe our school. And rightly so - these words capture the spirit we aim to promote at LCIS, and I felt it again so strongly when our community gathered for our Winter Fayre last week." says Andy Puttock, Principal at LCIS.

Here, Mr Puttock contemplates the meaning and value of community in the context of our school.


What is a community?

'Family' and 'community' - these words evoke ideas of common purpose, in our case, seeing young people flourish and achieve beyond their dreams. They speak of a diverse group of people acting together as one, and they suggest a real sense of looking after each other.

They also suggest a set of 'community values' by which we live, and exclude actions that we will not tolerate under any circumstances, such as bullying, racism, bigotry, intolerance of other's beliefs, and anything that interferes with our learning or well-being.

Community not only defines who we are but also enables us to improve that common purpose.
I would say that this happens in at least three ways.


Community, diversity and internationalism

It is always important to view our community in the context of the wider 'global community. One of my beliefs as an educator (and one of the reasons why I love international education so much) has always been that we need to value, celebrate and engage with diversity deeply. At the same time, we must strive for a common goal, which is to give our children the skills, values and attributes they need to create a better future for the world whilst never seeking to impose our own views on them. For example, as a bilingual school, we promote excellence in both English and French. However, we also celebrate and encourage students to develop their own cultures and languages at the core of their heritage and identity. 

Through our community values, but also by actively welcoming this diversity into our school community, we can set the foundations for those values to flourish.


The school as a learning community

During a recent conversation with one of our Ukrainian families, I was delighted to hear how much they had gained from joining our school. But I was equally pleased to share how much these students have contributed to our school.
Learning is very much a social activity, a realisation that was absolutely reinforced by virtual learning during the pandemic. 
However good a virtual programme may be, it cannot replace the shared experience of learning, teaching each other through what we have learned, and the healthy competition that comes with debate, and through being inspired by the successes of our classmates.

This shared learning can, of course, extend beyond the student body. Now that we are fully open again, we are happy to gradually welcome more and more parents and members of the local community who contribute their knowledge, skills and experience. This lends a new richness to our education.


Making a difference in our local community

We want to engage more and more with our local 'community' so we can be not just 'in Aubonne' but be 'part of Aubonne' and the region. That's why activities like the 'coup de balai', our harvest lunch for local senior citizens, our sponsorship of the Aubonne Expo, and the volunteer work of our CAS students are so important. These are just a few examples of something at the heart of education - taking care of our own family while contributing fully to the global family that surrounds us.


Strong communities are not isolationist, quite the opposite. By developing and embedding these values in our own community, we can become enablers for the global community values we wish to see.

 I realise that my reflections on the meaning of community may seem like a grand idea. But if there's one thing I've learned in my years in education, it's that no matter how big our ideas are as adults, students can take them one step further. We tend to ask, "Why?"; young people tend to say, "Why not?". And that's the joy of our work!


Better together

That brings me back to the LCIS community so close to our hearts. As I consider the 'community events' we organise, often with our wonderful Parent Teacher Association, or the curriculum outputs such as the IBDP TOK exhibition or our International Primary Curriculum exit points or assemblies, I believe this sense of 'better together' really strikes home.