It all started with a frog. Francis the Frog. Then came Bryan, Forg, Doug (A.K.A. Prison Spider), Frog Cop, Hot Dog Frog, and countless others.
You may be wondering who these unfamiliar amphibians are. They are the creation of English teacher Tom Knoblauch’s sixth hour AP Language and Composition class.
This came about when one student decided to draw a frog on the whiteboard near her desk and named him Francis the Frog. This creative bug began to spread as students joined in on making similar art. Soon, a whole Society of frogs had been drawn.
Why does this matter? Why should you keep reading this strange story about drawing animals on whiteboards?
The truth is, this frog phenomenon illustrates an important aspect of classroom life: community.
In most of our classes, there is an underlying unfamiliarity amongst many of us students.
Although we may be acquainted or friends with some people, we typically only see them once a day. Oftentimes, there is little or no connection between us. In some classes, very few speak, and we are all absorbed in our own worlds.
This is a problem because if we were to build a community amongst ourselves, it would positively impact our social and emotional well-being.
For example, the creation of Frog Society, to a small extent, seemed to launch my class out of our tiny environments into something bigger, to the point where students from other periods were getting involved by drawing on the whiteboard. We were all united by a common, albeit silly, event.
Although I wouldn’t say that this more engaged state of our classroom created life-long bonds, it did help strengthen our relationships with each other as it enhanced social interaction within our classroom.
Not only does developing a sense of community benefit the social aspect of our lives, but it also has a direct correlation to success in the classroom. In a study published in 2001, Fresno Pacific University business professor Breck A. Harris explored what a “spiritual learning community” looks like in a college classroom setting.
In this type of community, caring and commitment towards one another is a crucial part of the learning environment. Harris found that more than 87 percent of his subjects acknowledged that having this type of community in the classroom helped them to complete their program.
Although this data was recorded in regards to a college classroom study, it reveals that developing a community in any classroom helps along thriving in school.
We don’t need to be afraid of being initiators; we should talk to our classmates and get to know them. We can make efforts to exercise our creativity and even start something new that will catch the interest of our peers and bring us together.
Creating a strong, unified community in the classroom doesn’t have to take much effort or planning. All it might take is a drawing of a frog.