matryoShka | a nested Community

My son Alden is fascinated with a set of matryoshka dolls displayed on my school bookshelf. This tiny set of seven wooden dolls are nested inside each other, one-by-one. Alden knows the importance of each individual doll. The matryoshka set is out of proportion if one doll is missing. The dolls are only harmonized when all matryoshka pieces are nested together.


This tiny set of dolls on my bookshelf reflects a community of practice. As Lauren shared in her last post“a community of practice is a group of people who share a common passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, Communities of Practice: 2015). A community of practice builds into each other and strengthens spirits. A community of practice works collaboratively to support the heartbeat of the school building; the students. 

Last year, the staff of Stony Creek committed to learning together. The community participated in lab site experiences to notice and name, apply, and reflect upon our craft. We traveled into a classroom with a common focus and supported each other through application of specific instructional strategies. We reflected together and created goals to support the transference of our new understandings. Most importantly, we cultivated reading instruction across the building.

“The lab sites are helping me tremendously. I am going to take what I learned this week into my classroom and try it out.”

-Stony Creek Colleague

Our community of practice also nested together to create an instructional book of beliefs. Similar to belief statements within a company or organization, the beliefs in our book unify our community. These beliefs reflect our pedagogical understandings and values. These beliefs are our guarantees. These beliefs remind us daily that the heartbeat of Stony Creek is our students.

We value pedagogy.

We will create memorable learning experiences with our kids in mind.

-Samples from Stony Creek’s Instructional Book of Beliefs

Stony Creek has commenced its second year of kneading our community of practice. Through reflection and dialogue, our commitment to grow and even protect our community of practice is stronger. This year all colleagues will have an opportunity to participate in several differentiated lab site experiences. Colleagues will travel through a progression of facilitation and application. The community will collect evidence of student learning during our lab site experiences and create goals to cultivate student achievement across the building as well as reaffirm our instructional book of beliefs.

A community of practice, much like a set of matryoshka dolls, interacts and works together. Each interaction and learning experience builds the community.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

-Helen Keller-

Holly Gillam, Instructional Coach, Noblesville Schools

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