On Friday we were privileged to have as visitors in the school Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert from British Columbia. Linda and Judy are researchers in Canada involved with school improvement. (Check them out on Google to see their huge volume of work).
I was inspired by lots of things they talked about of course but one idea really struck me. They talked about "belonging uncertainty". They talked about it in the context of student achievement. Their research has shown that when students feel a strong sense of belonging to a school, when they feel the sense of entitlement, when the sense that the school's messages apply to them and that teachers take them seriously as learners, then they are more likely to achieve. In fact when schools focussed on belonging the achievement results could improve as much as by 11%.
That's an extraordinary outcome.
The question that Judy and Linda recommend asking students is "Can you name a teacher at school who believes you will be a success later in life ?" The answer of course indicates the view that the students have of themselves as learners and as students who matter.
The exciting thing is that as schools and as teachers we can control this sense of belonging -- in the conversations we have with students, in the respect for their work, in the feedback we give students, in the genuine interest we have in our students, in the high expectations we place on students.
It's exciting because it is within our power.