When a student knows that they can be their brilliant self and feel welcomed, appreciated and supported, it helps them shine at school (and in other parts of their lives). Without the worries creeping in about what others might think about them, kids can show up authentically and have room to make mistakes and share ideas without being judged. Those sorts of behaviors contribute to a successful learning environment.
Youth who feel a sense of belonging tend to have better academic performance, higher motivation and lower dropout rates compared with those that don’t. Inclusion also has positive impacts over the long-term. One study showed that teens who reported a sense of belonging in high school had better academic achievement in college.
Ensuring that all students are accepted and appreciated may not happen overnight, and teachers can have a positive impact through small, everyday actions.
Set the Tone for a Climate of Belonging
As educators consider what they can do to welcome every pupil, I recommend that they reflect on the needs of their learners using the lens of the Emergenetics® Attributes. To honor each preference and develop an environment where everyone has the freedom to be themselves, create space for:
- Things that Matter
- Individual Expertise
#1 — Connections
It can be challenging to feel valued by someone you don’t really know. That’s why authentic relationships are the first building block of acceptance. Make time for students to share information about who they are, their interests, how they learn best and their lives outside of school. It’s also helpful when educators share information about themselves too, so learners can get to know their teachers and build trust.
#2 — Things that Matter
Kids will be much more engaged in the classroom when they get a chance to work on topics and projects that are meaningful to them. I like to use the lens of the Thinking Attributes – Analytical, Structural, Social and Conceptual – to bring this recommendation to life because each preference will likely see “importance” differently. For example, someone with an Analytical preference may define importance based on the value they get, while someone with a Social preference might focus on how it affects others. Explain why the learning matters today and to their future. Connect to news stories or current events and weave in considerations for the things and people that youth care about.
#3 — Individual Expertise
While Analytical thinkers most often want to be viewed as experts, this tip can help any learner feel respected. Ensure that kids have an opportunity to share their knowledge and brilliances in different ways, like giving a presentation on something they’ve studied, writing a story that aligns to their interests or doing a project that has sparked their curiosity.
#4 — Planning
Youth who have a Structural preference appreciate preparation. Being ready for the task at hand helps them to feel considered. To honor this Attribute, offer time for organization, make room for practice and test runs as well as give examples students can reference.
#5 — Emotions
Those with a Social preference often believe that feelings are as important as facts. For them, a climate of belonging would require that they (and their classmates) have the space to express their emotions. Checking in with students and validating their sentiments can create a caring atmosphere.
#6 — Imagination
Conceptual thinkers are usually energized by thinking about what if. To show that this preference is valued, allow for tangents, discuss the possibilities that might come from whatever they are studying and provide opportunities to take a unique approach to a project.
#7 — Voice
While some of pupils will likely be quick to speak up and others will prefer to contribute quietly, all learners enjoy having their voices heard. Find ways to incorporate feedback – like getting kids’ input on how to set up the classroom, team norms or projects – and use a few methods to collect information like an anonymous suggestion box, written responses or a discussion to honor first-third and third-third Expressiveness.
#8 — Pacing
Sometimes, educator preferences may get in the way of how learners prefer to handle schoolwork. On the one hand, if a teacher likes to move quickly, they may be concerned about how long it’s taking a student to complete a task. On the other, a methodical teacher might be worried if someone is waiting until a day before a project to get started. To support individuals across the Assertiveness spectrum, identify ways to build in milestones to encourage kids get their work done while still honoring their timelines.
#9 — Choice
No matter where a learner falls on the Flexibility continuum, they are likely to enjoy having ownership. When giving directions, provide any specific requirements as well as choices. For example, offering the option to use different deliverables can empower students to complete a project in a way that energizes them, while still achieving necessary learning goals.
#10 — Celebration
Receiving positive reinforcement is a meaningful way to show all kids that their educators care and see the effort they’re putting into their schoolwork. Be mindful to celebrate youth at different points throughout the year and recognize progress as well as completion. Even better, when you consider each student’s Youth Report to guide how you acknowledge them, you can make the celebrations even more meaningful.
Apply The Tips to Promote Belonging
As you review the concepts above, it’s likely you are already applying some in your classroom. I’d bet some of those habits even connect with your own Emergenetics preferences!
For the practices that are new to you, I invite you to pick one to introduce in the next two weeks. Write it down on a post-it note and put it in a place where you will see it every day. Once the habit becomes second nature, then pick another recommendation to apply. It won’t take long before you’re conscientiously cultivating an environment that speaks to the different ways each of your students prefer to think and behave!
Want to foster a climate of belonging across your school? Download our guide for more tips to honor each of your students’ preferences at the start of the school year or semester.
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