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Have you ever laid in bed at night worrying about a problem that you didn’t know how to solve? Have you ever complained to others about a problem in the community without taking any steps to fix it? If so, you are not alone. There are many reasons that we choose not to address problems we see in the community: we don’t know how; we don’t think our actions will make a difference; we’re worried about the consequences of getting involved, etc. However, there is one very good reason to take action: If we succeed, we can make our community stronger and better for everyone in it.
Recently in Arava (second grade), the students have committed to working together to problem-solve issues that arise in our community. The first step in this process is that when a student notices a problem, they write it up and put it in our “Community Problem” envelope. These problems run the gamut from logistical annoyances (“Pencils are disappearing and they’re never sharp”) to complex social issues (“We want to play together but always end up fighting when we do”). We then use our Friday lunches to brainstorm together strategies to help improve the situation. These are posted on a bulletin board in our classroom and are referred to as needed.
One of the Arava students identified that it was easier to solve problems together because, “We’re all doing it so we don’t have to worry that people won’t listen to us,” and another commented, “We can remind each other to try the strategies if we see the problem happening again.” We also take time to regularly reflect on how our strategies are working and tweak our plans if necessary.
Will the Arava problem-solving result in a perfect community? Of course not. But the practice will hopefully prepare our students to be responsible, thoughtful and active members of our global community.
Chavah Goldman is a second grade teacher at JCDS.