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Remember that time you were in a meeting or classroom and you just didn’t feel like you belonged?

The energy and motivation for learning can come from a sense of belonging. When students feel connected in a classroom community, we can activate their cognitive learning. When they feel they don’t belong, students spend more brain power being on edge than on higher order thinking. When they feel it’s a safe environment to share their emotions, their struggles, their celebrations, they will begin to build each other up and encourage the success of their classmates. When we treat students with kindness and high expectations, they will respond well and learn together. The more we value them, the more they will respond in kind. Some students need much more support than others, but it does not mean we need to lower our expectations. 

The same goes for the home and boardroom. Valuing a foster child, a distant relative, or a college intern goes a long way to helping create a sense of belonging. My motto “Love God Love People” reflects my understanding of our deepest need to find true belonging. In Christ, we find our true belonging. We are fully known and fully loved. Does my classroom, my virtual tutoring session, and my dinner table reflect my motto? I hope so! Because I am fully loved by God, I can extend that love to others. I can welcome them in. I can show kindness. I can let my light shine.  I can listen. Then we can learn together and build community. 

The Covid pandemic uprooted many of us from our usual communities. New jobs and school years were started all remotely, and we felt even less connected even though we were constantly connected to our technology. We learned that we could not wait for others to connect with us.

We need to take the initiative to connect with others and build belonging. We need to move in, move toward others, and build up the interdependent relationship. Take your focus off yourself and cultivate community. Chat for a few minutes with your students about their favorite activities. Engage everyone in the room in the conversation. Take a walk with a neighbor. Call a friend that you haven’t talked to in a few months. Write a letter to a family member.

Help nurture belonging and learning no matter the circle you are in because nobody wants to sit through a lesson, a board meeting, or a family reunion feeling like they don’t belong. Let’s renew that energy and motivation to participate!

Table Talk: How do you show kindness and value to others who visit your home or office? What are places you feel you belong? What are places you don’t feel you belong? How can you move in towards others and take initiative in places you don’t yet feel like you belong?