English community circle


Photo provided by: Avery Ranum

Students in Peggy Leis’s 7th period English Honors class prepare for community circle. “It gives me great feedback about what their learning and also what their needs are,” Leis said. “It gives me an idea of how I can reach them better”.

Avery Ranum, Journalism 1 Reporter

On certain Friday’s in Peggy Leis’s classroom, students can be found in a circle with their fellow peers, sharing their opinions on different topics. This ‘community circle’ gives students a break from the average classwork. Instead, it is a chance for them to get to know each other while still learning.

“It’s a good balance between expressing how we feel about topics,” freshman Dean Scornik said. “It’s a different way of just connecting with people.”

Leis has been teaching for nine years. She is an English teacher, head of PIT Crew, and alumni. Since the beginning of her teaching career, she has always done community circle. The inspiration for it came from a former teacher.

“I had a teacher from here who did it with us, and I saw the value in being able to have people in a circle to talk about curriculum in a structured way,” Leis said. “It can’t just be what teachers teach; it’s got to be what kids think about what we teach and their feedback.”

Upon entry to the classroom, one will notice the desks pushed aside and the green chairs in a circular shape. Once settled, Leis reads out a question, and it goes around the group as students answer one by one. Each is given their own chance in the spotlight while others respectfully listen.

“I really think deep down, everyone wants a chance to talk and be listened to, especially when it comes down to school work,” Leis said. “It seems like all we do is test prep, test prep, test prep, but when we’re reading a piece of literature, and it can relate to kids in their lives, then we can talk about what’s happening with them”.

After students read the famous novel To Kill A Mockingbird, they had a community circle where the questions were tailored to that of the novel. They discussed the main topics, which in today’s society, can be controversial.

“We talked about prejudice and who are we prejudice against,” Leis said. “Is racism still around? Is it important for kids to listen to?”

Besides curriculum based discussions, students have also had more relaxed conversations, with questions ranging from what made them laugh today, to what they would do to help a sad friend. These questions often showcase who they really are, bringing them closer together.

“People are pretty cool. They have really nice personalities and they’re just people I’d want to hang out with,” freshman Cassidy Howard said. “There are some people in the class that I normally wouldn’t be friends with, but thanks to community circle, I get to see what they’re like, and how I was wrong about who they were.”

When other classes give students homework and stress, it can be nice to relax and take a break from it all. Even if it is not a textbook, there is still so much that can be gained from the exchanges.

“I learn that the kids that pass all the time still have a hard time trusting their peers,” Leis said. “What you see on the outside is not what’s usually going on on the inside.”