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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Reaching Out: Building Affinity Groups

An affinity group is a group formed around a shared interest or common goal, to which individuals formally or informally belong. We have affinity groups at our school based on learning needs, culture, role, and interests.

I've been wondering how I can create stronger support for students in my school who do not have role models related to their culture, gender, or interests. How can I empower these students? For example I have one student in my class this year that is an avid science-tech enthusiast. Yes, others like science and technology, but this students is clearly passionate about it. Last year I had a class full of students like that, but this year I have one. I want to make sure he finds like peers from other classes and perhaps even interested volunteers and experts to empower this wonderful interest he has.

Similarly I have a number of bright African American boys in my classes. We don't have any African American male teachers in our school. I want to build in some visits from mentors in this regard. Last year we had students from the high school come to speak to all fifth graders about study skills. I think we should do this again this year. Those high schoolers included African American young men and women. I also want my college-age son and his roommate to come in and talk to the students about college. A former student will help out at our school soon too and he's a great role model.

I think our school system may be able to build affinity groups in many areas by combining our work with the work of multiple local organizations and universities. Outside organizations often represent greater diversity of interest, culture, race, and experience, diversity we may not find within the walls of our schools.

Last night as part of the Teacher Leadership Initiative webinar, reaching out to the community was a theme that arose time and again when it came to the discussion of developing schools and students in positive, proactive ways. I want to think more about how my colleagues and I can reach out in order to empower each of our students with strength. Let me know if you have thoughts about this.