The Power of Belonging

Author: Dustin Odham
March 21, 2022

The Power of Belonging

Read this exclusive conversation with Catherine Digioia-Weinfeld. Learn more during the podcast interview on Change Starts Here. WATCH HERE


Dustin: If I’m a teacher, what are some questions that I can ask myself to help me create a stronger culture of belonging in my classroom?

Catherine: I tend to ask, “Hey, how many of your students do you feel like belong?” And I think what happens for teachers is they think, “Well, I try my absolute hardest to make them feel loved and give them the opportunity to trust me. I think my students feel like they belong.” But what we are learning is that there can be a bit of a disconnect—that positive relationships, greeting conversations, and knowing what a student loves to eat for lunch are important things but don’t always equate to a sense of belonging.

So one of the best ways to do this is to ask and try to measure the results, and that can happen in so many ways. Set out to measure, how does our school community feel about this topic? Ask everyone, and I mean everyone, our youngest students, our oldest students, our families, our staff members. To what degree do they feel like they belong to the school community? There are some great measurement tools out there. The process is asking and repeatedly checking in with them and finding those gaps or those blind spots that we don’t always know about.

It can also be helpful to disaggregate the data. For example, maybe we find that our students feel a sense of belonging, but we start to learn that our younger students don’t feel exactly that same sense of belonging as the older students. Or maybe most of their families feel a sense of belonging, but the parents and caregivers who worked at night, for example, didn’t have the opportunity to attend the same amount of events or have the same opportunities that other parents did. This actually happened at a school I work with.

Those are just two examples, but all of that to say that when we measure and ask, we have a chance to check and see if our assumptions are actually the reality for our stakeholders.


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