Sometimes we need to look carefully at the words and ideas we throw around as a matter of course, in doing do we espouse a certain set of beliefs and values about our school communities. There is that word again, ‘community’. When we talk about school communities or sub communities such as professional learning communities what are we really alluding to and why do we see a sense of ‘community’ as being an essential characteristic of a high performing school. By definition a community is a group of people who come together because they are motivated to pursue a common interest. They are important because they represent commitment, passion and a desire to strengthen the neighbourhood they live in. The nature of a supportive community sharing a common purpose and passion was bought home to me recently when it was my privilege to spend a week on the UNESCO world heritage listed Lord Howe Island. Lord Howe has a permanent population of 350 people and caters to a maximum of 400 tourists as any one time. As my wife and I strolled the island we were surprised when total strangers would stop and ask how we were and if they could help. Everybody seemed to know everybody else and after we had been there 2 days people recognised us and there was the friendly greeting via a wave or nod. Families who had continuously inhabited the island since the days of the earliest days of European settlement in Australia shared their experiences of island life. Children of all ages rode their bikes everywhere mostly unsupervised. Families strolled the island living a lifestyle that many would envy in this age where we always seemed to be rushed and life is a hectic challenge. That aside what really hit home was that I was surrounded by a community in the truest sense. Focused on preserving their heritage, and on protecting and sharing the values of the world heritage area that is their home. Demonstrating a real passion to ensure all visitors enjoyed their time on the island and embraced the values inherent in preserving the values that lead to its inclusion on the world heritage register. It went a long was to clarifying for me why building a sense of community is important and a worthy goal for all schools. Sub-communities such as PLC’s can play a critical role in providing a scaffold for building a shared moral purpose, vision, values and mission. A community is a social of any size that shares common values. In human communities, intent, beliefs, resources, preferences, needs and risks and number of other conditions may be present and common, all of these conditions influence and affect the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness. A school that has a cohesive sense of community will be a school where staff, students and parents understand and are committed to the same set of values. They will work together in the pursuit of commonly held ideals, They will support each other to be the best they can be. They will recognize when community members need help and support. They will be able to see how personal goals, strengths, skills and knowledge can be used to support the whole organisation. Like most things in the social sciences, community does not fit into a nice neat package. We need to recognise that a community is a construct or a model. We cannot see it as a whole, we cannot touch it and we do not directly experience it, but we do feel and see its influence. in existence when all of its current participants were elsewhere, and it will likely continue to exist when all of the people in it have left. A Community, like all of society and culture, is composed of the thoughts and actions of people, not the people themselves. A community usually takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along. This has been my experience in establishing PLC’s in schools. The sense of connectedness and formation of social networks comprise what has become known as social capital and something I have talked about extensively in previous posts.