Early in the year, Kindergarten and 1st grade students sat in a circle, engaging in an intense debate about a seemingly simple question: How many people are in your community? A few quick thinkers immediately answered twenty-four, the number of students in the class. Another child suggested twenty-six, taking into account the teachers. The conversation continued. What about the principal? The lunch workers? The custodians? The art and the music teachers? The students in the other classes? The parents? The University of Houston? “That’s way more people than we can count!” exclaimed Benjamin, a first grader. The students realized that this question was much more complicated than they had originally understood it to be. And they could not have been more correct. It is incredibly difficult to quantify a community as far- and deep-reaching as the University of Houston Charter School.
We are 136 students. Each of us is known by name, by voice, and by smile. Each of us is known by the project that we presented at the monthly assembly and by the creative writing piece that we shared on Authors Night. We’re known by the bracelet-making trend that we instigated in the after-school program and by the unique handshake that we developed with our friends. We’re known by our kindness toward our peers and by our helpfulness throughout the school.
We are a team of teachers, assistant teachers, and administrators who care about literacy, math, science, and social studies. We care about imagination, creativity, and innovation. We invest in problem-solving and relationship-building. We put ourselves as learners alongside our students, and in doing so we create classroom environments that are motivating, challenging, and engaging. We brainstorm ideas over lunch and discuss child development theory at faculty meetings. We are committed to each one of our 136 students, and we know that being committed to them means collaborating with everyone who shares that commitment.
We are a network of parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and neighbors. We are present in the day-to-day and at special events. We get to know each other, and we cherish our relationships. We see each other inside and outside of the school’s walls. We offer support and advice to one another when we struggle, and we celebrate each other when we succeed. We contribute time, energy, money, and love to the success of all of our children as they grow into the independent people we know that they will be.
Together, we create and sustain this unique community because we believe that it is what is necessary for the betterment of all of us as individuals and as a collective. In his book The School and Society, Philosopher and Educational Reformer John Dewey wrote that when, “…the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, [then] we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely, and harmonious.”
We are changing and growing. We are wondering and exploring up close and from afar. We are taking risks and embracing challenge. We are building up and knocking down. We are asking endless questions and finding a few answers. We are thoughtful, purposeful, trusting, and loving. We are UHCS.
-Mari Altshuler, UHCS Teacher