Connectedness, belongingness and community
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 5:00 PM
BATTLE MOUNTAIN - In last month's article, I focused on four factors that contribute to a student's school success. In this article, I will talk about those things that are essential to give students a sense of "connectedness," "belongingness" and "community" in regard to their school.
These factors have been identified in various studies as being key elements to school success.
"Connectedness" occurs for students and parents when they gain the feeling of being welcome at school, being familiar with school goals and expectations, and being regarded as contributing players in helping ensure success at school.
These feelings lend to a school environment that nurtures learning and appreciates the importance of parental involvement in working with the district toward the same goals. Achieving this environment is challenging and can only occur when there is trust among and between the school and the parents to do what is in the best interest of the child.
The importance of school environment has been detailed in a number of studies conducted by the Search Institute, with many of those findings used here. These studies identify a number of assets that help ensure the proper environment that is necessary for student success. Among these assets are a caring school climate, parental involvement in schooling, clear rules and consequences at both school and in the home, and high but realistic expectations from both teachers and parents.
When students find their school environment to be supportive and caring, they gain a sense of "belongingness" and take greater ownership of their school and their achievement. Additionally, they are less likely to become involved in substance abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors. They are more likely to develop positive attitudes toward themselves and positive social attitudes and behaviors toward others.
When students develop this positive feeling toward their school, this generates a sense of "community" for their school. When a child loves their school, this helps build a more positive feeling among parents toward the school and the staff.
Together, the terms "connectedness," "belongingness," and "community" all refer to a student's sense of being in close, respectful relationships with peers and adults at school. Research shows that these factors attributes greatly to a student's basic psychological needs for safety, belonging, autonomy and competence.
Students in schools that possess these traits are more likely to become thoughtful and reflective, to be self-directing but also to accept the authority of others, to be concerned for and respectful of others, to avoid courses of action that are harmful to themselves or others, and to maintain higher standards of ethical conduct. Setting students on the path to academic success helps advance the academic mission of the school.
Establishing and maintaining a school environment that promotes a sense of "connectedness," "belongingness," and "community" is possible only by all stakeholders working together. Together we can make this a reality.
Jim Squibb is the superintendent of the Lander County School District.