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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Communities : when we belong and when we trespass Itterman, Geraldine Lynn

Abstract

While teachers and scholars agree on the benefits of building community in the classroom, and consequently work to develop communities within schools and classrooms, many of our students continue to struggle to belong. Indeed, many of them experience school as a place that is so void of community, that they experience themselves as trespassers on territory that for both known and unknown reasons is inaccessible to them. Similarly, their personal territories often fall victim to being trespassed upon by school communities that are not truly accepting of and inviting to all. Both experiences can inhibit a students' ability to experience a profound sense of belonging to their community. In turn, this experience of trespassing can ultimately inhibit learning. Inviting children to experience and explore different communities through story is a very effective means through which to build community in the classroom. Coupled with discussion and other language strategies, the telling and retelling of stories from communities near and far provokes the students to imagine alternative ways of existing in the world; it nurtures empathy and it embraces difference. Through listening to their stories, my stories and the stories of others, we all come to know and to understand the characters in our stories, and in doing so, we come to know ourselves. Ultimately, this heightened understanding of self and others establishes a framework for the children to experience a sincere sense of belonging within their classroom community. Using narrative inquiry and fictionalized life-writing, I examine my own experiences with belonging and trespassing. In my encounters with both familiar and unfamiliar communities, I explore the rewards and challenges that have awakened in me a poignant, yet basic, understanding and appreciation for others. It is this appreciation that compels me to nurture community in my classroom. It is this understanding that encourages me to immerse my students in the diverse and wonderful world of story.

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