David Levine, Ph.D.
Creating a School of Belonging
1. Establish guiding principles
2. Find a common language
3. Listening and Responding
4. Building Conscious Connections with Others
5. Participating in Community
reasons for attending this session: engendering community; connecting parents to the kids of others; tweaking the community’s imprints/private logic/loyal soldiers; creating culture at a new school.
Identify a perceived need: turn it into a parent connection. At High Meadows School, all parents donate 25 hours of time a year, minimum (most donate more). One will design a logo for a program, one will run the bike race, another will spread mulch…
What is your school’s greatest strength?
Do you have a mission statement?
Do you have a mission statement you could explain to your kid(s)?
Do you have a mission statement that you helped write/create?
Enjoy / Avoid
List a dozen things you would do all the time, or not at all, if you could.
write | take out garbage
dance | pay bills
play | write comments
hike | give grades
read | tell people “no”
travel | exercise
design | edit
draw | fight
dog | cleaning
choices | commitments/obligations
hang with friends |
being outdoors |
BY and large, we create list of avoidances made of things that are imposed on us rather than ones we accept or choose. We create lists of things that we choose to do as our enjoyment. There are emotional attachments to both. Security and safety attach to the basic goodness of things that we enjoy. Some people will avoid things on the “enjoy” side, but some will enjoy things on the “avoid” side. In a school of belonging, everyone has a choice which expresses itself as a place and space in the community.
Community Questions: Belonging
Have you ever gotten dressed for school and changed your clothes at least once?
Have you ever sworn not to wear some piece of clothing your parents bought?
Have you ever said something like, “this ugly sweater? my grandma bought it.”?
Have you ever nodded your head at your teacher in order to avoid getting called on?
Have you ever talked about a film with your friends even though you hadn’t seen it?
All of these are questions of belonging.
Community Issue: Power. Kids need self-competence. Not confidence, not self-esteem. A chance to be in control, in a place of leadership either of self or others.
Freedom: independence , interdependence
Fun: you should be able to walk into a classroom and feel like these are your people. When you have a need that is unmet, you tend to act out with behavior. Your behavior is specifically directed at getting your need met, over and above all else. A student perception of the learning environment has a direct relationship to the success of the learning expected to do.
Honor is the capacity to confer respect to another individual — Angeles Arrien
Or consider: Honor the relationship before the task.
Example of not emotionally-safe environment:
teacher to student: “are you going to act stupid again today?”
other student: “he always acts stupid.”
all other students: (Laughter)
first student: (shrug and “ha”)
Levine to principal: “I’m not here for this, but I overheard this exchange.”
Principal to Levine: “Oh, I know who that is.”
School board at public school announces in August that the school day will be ten minutes longer in the morning and afternoon after no public comment, as a vindictive action against the union with whom the board just settled a contract in August.
1. Establish guiding principles.
Create a set of emotionally-safe guidelines.
2. Find a common language
create a word-hoard that everyone understands what you mean.
3. Listen and respond
This is a 3-stage process. a) open-ended, b) clarify and summarize what’s been said; c) Reflect the feelings back to the speaker. Open ended questions begin with who/what/when/where/how NOT Why. Why demands reasons, not circumstances.
4. Build conscious connections with others
Teach your students how to work with substitute teachers. Work with partners for a long period of time. Work in pairs. Learn to work with a partner. Build in the question “any questions or comments?” Offer time for them to develop a sense of belonging or partnership.
5. Participate in Community.
Design ritual space and time so that community forms. PArent coffee hour before concerts, so that they’re not talking with each other during the concert. Invite community activity. Form routines. Teach processes before content, so that content receives high-motivational input. “lunch bunch” – group to sit with at lunch. IF there’s a need for communication, create book groups.
• Risk, resilience, and protective factors
• Emotion and learning
• Pro-social skills
• emotional memories drive our behaviors: perceived reality which goes unchecked or altered IS reality.
• prevent low-level forms of aggression
• name the world for students – create common language.
• Routines and rituals
• Process and content