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The Big C=Community

September 30, 2020 | Melissa McCallihan

Community, or the big C as I refer to it, is one of the best parts of being a person connected to Mustard Seed School. We value people. We make sure to know people’s names and build relationship with people. So therefore, building community is a major component of the first six weeks of learning at Mustard Seed School. Virtual or hybrid classrooms do not change the fact that at Mustard Seed we are intentional about building community.

Typically, community is built with morning greetings, enjoying a shared story and a shared read aloud. Also, it is built on game play and class meeting topics that ask students to think deeply and share their opinions and feelings. Last year my cohort became very involved with the plight of refugees as a result of a book I read aloud.

The sixth grade community wanted to build an identity and community that was their own from the very first day. They didn’t want the fact that their community was a hybrid of two cohorts meeting in school on different days, to effect their ability to be one sixth grade community. So shared Zoom times became vital for building this type of community. Game play is still a big part of that. In a recent meeting we had a virtual scavenger hunt and laughter abounded.

Another way we are building community is through a recent request from students. They asked if our small group time could become a cross-cohort time and that during that time there could be opportunity for play as well as work. Students start the meeting all together, and then break up into small groups of 3-5 people that are a blend of folks who are in school and who are at home. The conversations I overhear are about their everyday lives as well as whatever assignment I’ve given them.

We’ve been working on our class covenant based on the fruit of the Spirit. We’ve also been rewriting the technology agreement to reflect the changing times.

And sometimes students just decide on their own to use something as simple as wearing the same shirt to school to unite their group.

Feeling like you belong is important. Feeling like you are known is important. Have a strong community is vital. I think the sixth grade is well on their way.

Melissa McCallihan

Teacher, Grade 6; Science Grades 6-8

Teaching children to take risks and fail well is important to Melissa McCallihan, who has taught for over 29 years. She believes children learn as much through their failures as they do through their successes. She celebrates both in her classroom. In collaboration with the middle school director, art teacher, and other fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. McCallihan has been instrumental in developing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, an extension of the Lower School’s Shared Space model. “STEAM is where students solve problems and sometimes get it wrong,” says Mrs. McCallihan when asked about risks and failing well. “Students need to learn how to do that with grace, and to try again with grit and determination.” Mrs. McCallihan currently teaches sixth through eighth grade science.

Mrs. McCallihan cares deeply about relationships with her colleagues, students, and families. She works hard to make and maintain connections on a personal and professional level. And follows the mantra “Worship God, Love All.”

When not at school, you can find Mrs. McCallihan searching out a fantastic restaurant or hidden sight to see in New York City.

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