For the last dozen years I’ve been a member of the Mount Irenaeus community. My affiliation with “the Mountain” as we call it has provided me with a laboratory as it were to observe the behavior of all who come there. Everything about Mt. Irenaeus bespeaks hospitality and most visitors return. Some like me come regularly because I live nearby while others who live at some distance return less regularly. How often do educators and especially educational leaders realize the importance of hospitality. Schools have become increasingly less hospitable at a time when it is most counter-productive to be so.
Rigorous standards, increased testing and accountability have brought considerable strife to most schools, the children, teachers, administrators and parents associated with them. As a graduate student in educational leadership I became interested in the idea of community building and how communities can transform learning. How can we create community in institutions that have become inherently in-hospitable. In my classroom I make it a point to greet each student usually with a handshake and a verbal “welcome to class.” It has become such a habit that the students themselves welcome me when I forget to greet them. Hospitality has become an earmark of our class culture.
I believe that hospitality ought to be a part of all school cultures and that a concerted effort is needed to maintain an atmosphere of hospitality. We need less barriers in schools and more bridges to learning and each other. Hospitality is an invitation to community and never has community been more important in education whether public or private. The social fabric of our local communities has been torn asunder by the economic and cultural cataclysms of the recent past. More than ever we need schools to be communities of learning and the best way to do that is to begin by greeting our students and their parents when they come to school.