Start the Year by Belonging
The comfort level students experience in their classrooms is often proportional to their success. Feeling welcome and safe in a school is part of the equation, but developing a sense of belonging is a gradual and more nuanced process that leads to a deeper sense of comfort. Belonging also requires a sense of unconditional acceptance and not being judged based on one’s identity or background, including gender, race, religion, or disability status.
Conversely, students who perceive that the classroom's or school's environment is unjust or somehow designed to advantage certain individuals may become disengaged, hurt, or angry, making it much more difficult to be engaged and to learn.
Researchers who study these issues
recommend a range of practices to cultivate feelings of belonging, including
encouraging teachers to highlight the strengths of individual students
regardless of their differences, actively challenging stereotypes within our
culture, and strengthening connections between a school and its surrounding
community--particularly with organizations that serve a variety of populations.
But there is no substitute for the warmth and acceptance that teachers
can foster in their classrooms for every student. And when a universal
feeling of belonging is in place, so much more can happen.
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