Teaching as a Community

Teaching is inherently a social occupation. Effective teaching involves effective communication; however often that communication can be restricted to the student-teacher relationships.

Communities of Practice 

I idealise a situation where the communication between teachers is considered equally as paramount. A teacher who recently left our College after over 40 years service noted "there are many great teachers here - I tried to be a good colleague."

In order to develop collegiality, and thus effectiveness, it is important to consciously acknowledge what communities of learning I have a responsibility to play an active role in a number of communities of practice. Wenger (2000) notes that "Participating in these communities of practice is essential to our learning. It is at the very core of what makes us human beings capable of meaningful knowing". 

There are two communities of practice which dominate my professional interactions. The first is obviously the department that I work within here at school. The second in the Canterbury Geography Teachers Association (CGTA), an organistation in which I play an active role as a committee member, and as treasurer.

Elements of a Successful Community

Reflecting on Wenger's identification of the 3 elements of a successful community of practice was an interesting exercise as it helped me identify some potential weaknesses in each community. The first element, joint enterprise, identifying varying examples for my two communities. My department is responsible ultimately to students, and their parents. We are responsible for the students academic and personal growth - no small responsibility. CGTA, in contrast, is responsible to its members. It feels like more of a business model, where we are under pressure to provide services to the schools whose annual subscription funds our activities.

It is in mutuality that the two communities are most similar. Both are groups of dedicated teachers,. with strong pedagogy, and a genuine desire to refine, and redefine their own pedagogy for the benefit of their students.

Finally, the repertoire of each organisation is clearly different. The audience of each communities resources and efforts is fundamentally different. A department within a school is producing material for students, while the CGTA is producing resources for teachers.

Contributing more than ideas

I'm an ideas man. It is the follow through that is my weakness (acknowledged publicly here for perhaps the first time!) It is important that I challenge myself to contribute more than this. This challenge is constantly in my mind as I engage in each of these groups. I ensure that I am an active participant in both of my identified communities, perhaps more informally in the school department, but more formally within CGTA where I have been a committee member since 2010 and treasurer since 2011. 

Teaching as a community

Collegiality is important to me. The observation from the retiring teacher 18 months ago has stuck - I want to be a good colleague. A good colleague is more than someone who says good morning, or randomly puts chocolate in pigeon holes. Taking an active role in my two Communities of Practice is one way that I can attempt to make more of a difference to more people - perhaps not as an acknowledged leader like an HOD or DP - but as a classroom teacher whose skill-set is perhaps more adapted to working and succeeding from within.   

Reference List:

Wenger. E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246.



  1. Hi Tom. I really enjoyed reading your post, especially about being a good colleague as I relate to that. I think you are being a bit hard on yourself in relation to being an ideas guy but needing work on the follow through. Having sat with you around the table in the Mindlab Chch, it always made me feel inadequate how you could always put our groups ideas into digital reality.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Pete. The last couple of years particularly I have been increasing conscious of trying to be a colleague rather than a staff member - it can manifest in a number of ways - sometimes noticed and appreciated by others - sometimes not noticed at all. I feel both are important.


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