Spotlight On: The Importance of Belonging

17 February 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 17 February 2023.

As the girls arrive at School in the morning, striding through the gate and into their classrooms, they are welcomed and acknowledged. They should expect to be noticed - they belong in their School.
As we delight in moving beyond the restrictions on social interactions in recent times, helping children feel noticed ought to be a priority for us all.
To be noticed should be a belief system. When children feel they are noticed:
  • It helps them to feel seen and known
  • which makes them feel loved,
  • which makes them feel like they belong
Belonging, feeling respected, accepted and supported by teachers and their peers, has been shown to be linked to healthy social and emotional development and sustained engagement in academic and non-academic activities. Studies also point out that the sense of belonging and engagement tends to decline as students get older. Developing a habit of noticing others is important.
For teachers, the intentional act of seeing a student’s uniqueness and showing an interest in their full life is essential to noticing and thus creating a sense of belonging.
We create a sense of belonging when:
  • We address the students by name
  • We get to know our students (and their families) – Parent/Teacher Meet and Greet sessions, Parent Information meetings (and electronic portfolio updates)
  • We pass on individual information from teacher to teacher
  • We acknowledge student achievements/skills mastered
  • We have high expectations
  • We support our students with next steps in learning, encouraging them to ‘try again’ (and again), if at first they don’t succeed
  • School is a safe, consistent, structured and secure learning environment
  • We promote student agency and action
  • Students understand and demonstrate the School Values: Truth, Courage, Service
  • Students belong to a class, a House group, and have buddies
  • We create opportunities for community development, e.g. Camps, open classrooms, carnivals, concerts and performances, assemblies, sport and cocurricular activities
  • We explicitly teach Wellbeing (an integral part of life @ Queenwood overseen by K – 12 Director of Wellbeing, Mrs Kerr, and JS Pastoral Care Coordinator, Mrs Turner)
  • We work with families to support their daughters through student and parent workshops (e.g. UR Strong - Friendology;  Unpacking the World of the Tweenager; The Next Chapter)
  • We promote generous assumptions
  • We model interactions/conduct we wish to see
  • We acknowledge acts of kindness, helpfulness, good choices
Parents can further enhance wellbeing through noticing:
  • Provide time to discuss the school day with specific questions – did you choose a book in the library/what did you do in Music today? Did you try something new? Tell me about something you learnt – did you ask questions? Was there something you found difficult? Did you make a new friend today?
  • Shine a light on your child: notice the good, acknowledge acts of kindness/helpfulness, organisation, independence, completing homework without asking.
The evidence to support the importance of noticing each child is clear. It promotes a sense of belonging and lays the foundation for long-term flourishing but is too important to leave to chance. We should all therefore take an intentional approach both at home and at school, and develop the habit of noticing.