A Sense of Belonging
Written by: James Lee – Head of School
Often times, I would travel and attend educational conferences, connecting with international colleagues, collaborating with educational professionals and experts around the world. There is no better feeling than coming home, walking through the doors and being surrounded by familiar people who care about you and re-connect a sense of belonging. It doesn’t stop there. As a school leader, I’ve often thought about the impact within schools, and how a greater sense of institutional belonging impacts specific components within the operations, school community and culture. There is no doubt that when school environments foster a strong sense of belonging, there exist clear and formidable relationships at the core, a level of trust and connection that impactfully enhances the volume and depth of learning and student-teacher engagement within the walls of the classroom and surrounding physical spaces of the school. There is no research formula for this viewpoint. There are no data points that prove my comment. Just an observation and an opinion formulated over 25 years in education and working in both the private and public sector.
Although schools love to articulate the importance of learning within their literature, various programming elements and marketing messages, we should always be mindful and cognizant of the components that may impede the degree and depth of learning within schools for young children in their formative elementary years, and this often centres around people and relationships. That said, I do believe that students will generally learn and develop throughout their educational journey, no matter what institution they choose and regardless of the challenges and experiences they have gone through. Everyone experiences different levels of growth and development. A phrase that is often used to describe a child’s journey is – “It is rarely a straight line from point A to point B.” In my opinion, great schools must have great teachers, and great teachers understand how to harness relationships, trust and engagement to maximize learning within their educational environments and direct that pathway from “point A to point B.” Facilities are secondary and may supplement learning to a degree, but at the core of any great schools are great teachers and great people. At the core of great teachers are individuals who are not only competent in their respective disciplines but also have the ability to engage, connect and place relationships and trust at the forefront to drive learning at its most effective and optimal level for children in their formative years.
Our lives are often busy. In our digital world, so much information drives our volatile levels of emotions from cheerful to stressful, from happy to sad, and from curious to concerned. As a member of this community, what is consistent is the sense of belonging. Whether you are a current RDS student, a graduate and alumnus attending post-secondary school or beginning your career, or current parent, alumnus parent or prospective parent, it is this sincere belief that defines the ethos of our institution, and human connection that identifies our unique educational environment and most importantly, a school where there is a strong sense of belonging as soon as you walk outside the 4th-floor elevator doors and into the amazing and wonderful surrounding that we ALL call – RDS – The Rosedale Day School.