Fitting In

In our classrooms, are we creating places where children are asked to fit in, or spaces where children know they belong? What is the difference?

One non-education podcast I listen to regularly is On Being, with Krista Tippett. Recently, Brené Brown was a guest on a repodcast (from 2018). She talked about conversations with middle schoolers, where they came up with this distinction:

Dr. Jean Clinton shares this perspective on the difference between the two concepts in her 2018 video:

As well-meaning adults, do we create school cultures based on our ideas of what school should be? Or, do we empower those we serve (our children and young adults) to own the school, making it a place where they belong?

When kids don’t fit in, are we preoccupied with fixing the child? Research tells us that every behaviour has a reason. When we approach behaviours with curiosity, we open our eyes to the perspective of the child. We become ‘stress detectives’, looking for the why, rather than the judge, imposing the sentence from the Code of Conduct.

Belonging is foundational for positive child development. School must be the place where every single child feels safe and valued. Children need to know that their contributions matter.

This is a shift in thinking away from the traditional mental model of school, a place where children show up and comply. This traditional mental model is alive and well in the minds of so many. We see it in the media, where stock images always reflect a ‘stand and deliver’ culture. We hear it in public discourse and political debate, where brilliant, beautiful children are often confused with numerical data points

As educators, our language and our actions need to be focused on creating a place of true belonging for every single child. How do we, as the adults, regulate ourselves so that our “eyes light up” when children walk into our schools?

Is genuine connectedness and belonging at the heart of what we do in schools? Because if it is, then our kids are going to thrive.

Featured image:

unsplash-logoSam Balye


On Being – A podcast hosted by Krista Tippett A Peabody Award-winning public radio show and podcast. What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? And who will we be to each other? Each week a new discovery about the immensity of our lives.

Podcast on VoicEd Radio: Dr. Jean Clinton – Self-Reg and a Healthy Brain

Adolescence and Self-regulation: What do we know? (The Mehrit Centre)

Belonging and Contributing – What are we learning through research? Ontario Ministry of Education, The Kindergarten Program 2016.

The Power of Positive Adult Child Relationships: Connection is the Key

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