Communities & Relationships

Relationships are fundamental to just about everything. We generally think of relationships as something between two people, but, as Gregory Bateson suggested, we live in a world of relationships. The cup of coffee we drink in the morning is not just a "thing" it is a bundle of relationships. The hollow, tendency towards sphericity pattern of the cup allows the object to hold our coffee. This "container" quality is a relationship between the object and the liquid. Without the liquid, there really is no function or meaning. We can add on additional relationships with decorative and marketing patterns that add meaningful relationships, as well. And, of course, without you their is no drinker of the coffee or maker of the coffee. The idea here is that everything in our world is "in" relationship to something else. Objects just don't exist in a vacuum. Even outside of our Earth system, the planet Mercury is in relationship with the Sun and the Sun is in relationship with nearby stars and the Milky Way Galaxy, as a whole. And, our galaxy is in relationship to other galaxies.

However, the contexts of relationships among living things adds all kinds of other dynamics. And, then, as we move into human relationships, we get into even more complicated situations. In teaching and working with children and older students, understanding and focusing on the dynamics of relationships are essential. The dynamics of working with relationships in schools and classrooms are important for deep learning to occur. By deep learning, I mean learning beyond just the concepts. Deep learning includes how such concepts fit into larger contexts of one's life and work, as well as the social, cultural, and ecological contexts. Such learning also includes how "to be" a learner and/or inquirer in that area. It includes an identity of a community member in that area of inquiry. Learning also involves understandings of how to talk and "walk the walk" in that community of inquiry or whatever. Relationships expand a sense of learning beyond the purely semantic or textual.

When we move up in scale to developing and working with communities, we must base our work on the dynamics of relationships. Seeing classrooms and schools as functional, compassionate, democratic communities changes the entire dynamic. We can move from a top-down, corporate-management style approach to one that is controlled by students with distributed power. And, again, communities involve developing:

  • senses of identity as members of the community
  • ways of participating as members
  • the meanings associated with the community
  • knowledge required as a member of the community
  • effective ways of relating with others in the community
    • empathy and compassion
  • democratic consensus approaches to running the community

Links to Some Inquiries and Activities

Relationship Inquiry #1


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©2015 Jeffrey W. Bloom

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