I was lucky enough to be chosen by the World War Two museum in New Orleans to participate in their Real World Science program for teachers. The leader, Rob, created a friendly atmosphere and the group became a community and we all still keep in touch. Due to the pandemic, they didn’t meet last year and this year was virtual so some alumni participated and many said how their groups were the same as ours. Leaders matter. Rob made that warm, welcome environment whereas that same summer I went to another teacher workshop where we barely spoke to each other.
It was also New Orleans where fun is part of the DNA. It was the summer before I moved into cohousing so I thought – this is going to be my life. Hanging out and having fun with a cool group of people like I am doing this week.
That didn’t happen. I heard someone else in my community wonder why their summer grad school group was so close and why cohousing was so different. We knew that it’s different to spend a week or a summer together, but both of us wanted more of what we had. Plus, for one week or one summer, conflicts won’t arise as say, living together all the time.
I also think leadership matters. You have to step up as a democratic group and make the environment what you want it to be. Make a clear vision. Discuss values. Find ways to hold everyone accountable to policies. Find ways that really work to deal with conflict – listening partners, feedback, restorative circles, systems in place that people really use, etc. It takes work to make all the fun and benefits of cohousing.
If you know of a teacher who wants to do history AND/OR science linked to World War 2 for elementary and middle school teachers, check this out: (Rob is in blue in the middle)