Everyone craves for a sense of belonging. Wanting to feel that you are part of something greater than yourself is natural, and students are no different. In fact, kids who have yet to solidify their sense of identity are given opportunities to explore who they are with who they are with. More importantly, though, belongingness contributes to better academic performance. The more students feel accepted and respected, the more they excel. School administrators and teachers have the privilege of creating a positive environment that makes students feel like they belong. Here are some strategies to do that:
Create interaction spaces around the campus
Help students build rapport with one another by providing avenues where they can meet and learn more about each other. Of course, this is a given inside classrooms. Structure your lessons in a way that lets pupils work together. Assign them to groups. Encourage them to pick a study buddy, but do not stop at the four walls of the classrooms.
The informal spaces outside of those rooms are crucial. Outside the formalities of a class setting, students can let their guard down and know fellow members of the school community on a friendship level. Invest in creating interaction spaces, like playground shelters, study pods, and shade structures. Provide walkway covers for schools’ transition spaces, paths in between buildings to increase comfort for pupils interacting while going to class. The principle is, prioritise dedicating spaces for interaction around your campus.
Provide platforms for students to share their story
Students often feel isolated from the rest of the school’s community because of identity issues concerning race, socio-economic class, and gender. It is never easy to break these barriers as these are deeply embedded in the greater society, but there are ways to slowly bring about change. One of which is holding dialogues.
Encourage your students to speak and share their story. Let them talk about their struggles and triumphs. Break into groups and facilitate discussions on inclusivity and diversity. Note that this is not only applicable to older students. The younger the students are educated on these matters, the more you are creating a better school climate. Remember that this practice not only empowers the pupils speaking, but also inspires empathy on the rest of the community. It creates an environment that is accepting, respectful, and safe.
Celebrate school success
Students feel a sense of affinity towards one another when they share goals and reach them. That is why it is important to get the whole student body involved in activities, whether that be in inter-school soccer competitions (by offering moral support for the school team) or sports weeks (by pursuing fitness interests). When they are able to hit objectives in unity, there is so much fulfilment and warm fellowship in the atmosphere. Drum up the excitement for such school-wide activities. Give students something to look forward to. Use your social media pages to promote such.
Again, the sense of belonging in a school community is important in setting up your students for academic success. So ask yourself now, do your pupils feel like they belong?