"Ms. Porter started this tradition of greeting each student within the circle each morning. Think of it: once you feel welcomed and appreciated, would you feel ready to learn?"
Last fall this picture posted to our Facebook. It quickly gathered a cascade of comments. "What a fantastic idea!" "They should adopt this in every workplace!" "Think of the productivity!" It made a connection that we do not always talk about, or even know is there, but resonates deeply within us when touched upon.
It made the connection between belonging and learning.
In a recent survey, one of the top reasons parents choose PHCS is its "family atmosphere," and a "sense of belonging for the children." In a time when more and more parents are having to both work to make ends meet in Sonoma County, they are relying more on extended family, friends, and even teachers to become their village to help raise their children with the same values they hold. In short, school becomes an extension of family. And what is family but a place where you are welcomed and belong?
Think of it: once you feel welcomed and appreciated, would you feel ready to learn?
Learning is hard work. It's tough on someone's heart to be faced everyday with facts and skills you don't yet know and aren't yet good at. Trying a new skill, and failing, and trying again is tremendously vulnerable business. It brings up the questions, "Am I ever going to get it? Am I smart enough? What if I never learn this lesson? Am I good enough? What if I fail? What then? Will I stop belonging? Will I still matter?
In the youngest grades, our teachers understand students are forming attitudes toward learning that they will carry their whole lives. They understand that if a child feels un-welcomed, it may affect their whole school career from then on. They understand, and deeply care about engaging their student's hearts, as well as their minds.
When a child feels welcomed, they feel safe enough to open up to learning, trying, failing, and growing. This practice of spending time at the start of each day welcoming each child, builds resilience into their hearts to tackle the challenges of life from a foundation of love and belonging. This is what a family atmosphere at a school looks like. This is the platform from which academic excellence can be achieved. This is the love of Christ in action: ministering to a child's mind, soul, and spirit.