We All Need Belonging
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Belonging matters. According to anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, our sense of belonging is an important predictor of our well-being. As he explains in this recent episode of my favorite podcast Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda, the number and quality of our close friendships can be the best predictor of our psychological, and physical health and even an indicator of how well and long we're likely to live. 

That can feel like a steep hill to climb. Especially during these, now years, of social distancing. It can feel overwhelming to think about making new friends, or even nurturing existing friendships. As we continue to prioritize physical safety, many of us are feeling the desire for connection, and our need for belonging may be trending toward the unmet end of the spectrum.

This week I’m continuing to explore the ABCDEs of human needs, a tool Center for Inspired Teaching developed based on psychologist William Glasser’s Choice Theory. We originally developed the ABCDEs as a tool for teachers to use to analyze, understand, and empathize with students in distress. That original purpose is still a critically important part of our restorative approach to discipline in the classroom. However, as we continue to persevere through the extreme challenges of teaching during this pandemic, it’s wise to tend to our own needs as well - and the ABCDEs can help.

As we did last week with Autonomy, we’re offering a few simple questions to help you gauge how well your need for Belonging is being met right now - and to help you devise some steps to take…to meet it. 

“I want to feel connected to and valued by those around me.”                       

Belonging is our psychological need to love and care for others and to believe that we are loved and cared for in family relationships, friendships, and working relationships. To belong, we must connect with people by cooperating, caring, sharing, and being involved. 

Where is this need in your life right now according to this spectrum? 

How is this need for belonging being met in your life right now?

What changes might be necessary in order for your need for belonging to be better met? 

You can engage with these questions on our ABCDE website.

While it can feel daunting to make changes in order to meet our needs, small steps can be beautiful if they are taken with intention. So start small - and notice the communities which fuel your sense of belonging. (See below for a reflection to help you identify these.)

And while you’re at it, don’t forget about the Hooray For Monday community! You belong to our community of teachers and parents who are committed to making school engaging and meaningful for students everywhere. Your presence in our community, and your practice in your own schools and families, contribute so much. Thank you.

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Small Steps to Greater Belonging - A Reflection

There are lots of ways our sense of belonging can be bolstered - even with small steps.

Give yourself 3 minutes to list communities you are part of - listing as many as you can. Consider:

  • Communities you’ve deliberately chosen to join (a book group or improv class);
  • Communities that have selected you (your place of employment or your college alumni association);
  • Communities you are a part of by default (the street on which you live or your family or the parents of your child’s friends); and,
  • Any other community that’s a part of your identity.
  • Include online communities too (like, for example, the Schitt’s Creek Fans Group on Facebook or a particular list you follow on Twitter). 

Pause for a moment. It’s worth simply noting how many communities you belong to. Even communities we may take for granted (the street I live on comes to mind) count. 

Next, choose one of the communities to which you belong. Ask yourself:

  • What do I contribute to this community that is of value? Or… What could I contribute that is of value?
  • Then consider the other side of the question: What does this community offer me that is of value? Or… What could this community offer me that is of value? 

The simple act of considering these questions - for one community or for all of them - can build connection, and help meet the need for belonging. And it may turn out that some communities truly bring value, and merit more of our time and energy, while some may not serve our needs as much as they once did. That learning is useful too.

Say "Yet"

If you're feeling like your need for belonging is a long way from being met, it's useful to remember the helpful little word, "yet." This Instigator of Thought Challenge encourages you to see what happens when you put "yet" at the end of your struggles. 

Join us for our FREE 
February Inspired Teaching Institutes

Each Institute will explore: 

  • "The HeART of Discipline" - a deep dive into our student-centered approach to navigating challenging behaviors in the classroom. 
  • Strategies for building intrinsic motivation through harnessing students' innate curiosity and tapping into their interests.
  • Practice with shifting interactions with students away from compliance and toward engagement
Here are a few things participants had to say about our January Institutes: 
  • "I loved the connection between people in the session. We were always actively involved in all the activities."
  • "Engaging in this way gives everyone a real feel for different ways of looking at things. I can see how these strategies will work better than just talking with students about negative and positive attention, energy, and attitude."
DC Public School teachers get PLUs through the Washington Teachers' Union for participation. Thanks to the generosity of our donor community, Institutes are free for all participants. 
Register for Wednesday, February 9 | 7-9 PM ET
Register for Saturday, February 12 | 7-9 PM ET
Download a Calendar of Our Monthly Institutes
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