Jeannette G. Stone (2000)

The Classroom as Community: Ideas from an Early Childhood Teacher

Note to the Reader:

I have based my views on my 1953-97 experiences as a preschool teacher, administrator, and consultant—in cooperative preschools, Head Start programs, a college lab school, and child day care centers, including special education classrooms. Children in these settings have come from diverse economic and ethnic homes and neighborhoods.

Staff members in centers for severely disabled children, as well as those with extremely limited budgets, may feel that particular realities prevent their adoption of some practices described here—such as class trips or purchase of quality materials, which can be expensive. I know how some teachers have to modify their programs for practical reasons and yet how ingenious they are in upholding high standards.

I really believe that the basic philosophy in this paper applies to all facilities for children. All children attending childcare programs benefit from respectful teaching and they all belong to classroom communities, whether they are in family day care or in large inclusive urban centers. My hope is that they will enjoy learning to be together, in whatever setting they find themselves; that they will thrive as individuals; and that they will take good care of each other.


As we entered the Millennial year 2000 both eagerly and soberly) my colleagues in education and I found ourselves thinking about the world of elementary and secondary school our preschool students would enter before long, and wondering about the kinds of school children they would become.

We had been stunned by the hostile, occasionally violent, school behavior we had witnessed on TV over several months. We had heard stories of teenage scapegoating and bullying as well as indifference or disdain from clique members toward other people. We had heard from youngsters that past experiences of being teased and "dissed" by classmates had resulted in their humiliation and anxiety. And like so many other people, we were puzzled and troubled.

Within professional early childhood circles, we had held to certain beliefs and had taught young children accordingly. We had tried hard to help each child to feel valued and competent and to behave respectfully toward other children and toward adults. We had hoped that our classrooms were microcosms of decent living, of fair play, of communities in which all could thrive and participate. We also hoped that this kind of early education would continue to influence children’s thinking and behaving as they got older. | Read the full paper»