A Sense of Belonging
It is so hard to take something as meaningful as The Norman Howard experience and encapsulate it in a single phrase, but “A Sense of Belonging” comes close....
Adapted from The Pinnacle - Winter 2017, read the full issue here.
Our school welcomes students from a wide geographic area (30 districts!), with a a great deal of diversity in thought, abilities, interests, and cultures. It's been said we're a "quirky bunch" bonded, even, by our differences. A place where we truly celebrate and support what makes every person unique.
When our students first join our school, few have felt connected as a member of a school community in the past. But students and families alike are quick to find, at Norman Howard, everyone belongs. This sense of belonging to a community has a profound impact.
How do we cultivate this sense of community? By assuring students are included, supported and feel "understood" by their teachers and peers.
First, on the simplest level, we know every student by name. Each morning, they are greeted at the door by Mrs. Hodges or Ms. Murray. Not only do we know them by name, but we know a great deal about them. It always impresses me to hear how up-to-date our teachers are on their students’ lives. On a typical Monday you can hear kids updating faculty on karate tournaments, family trips, or the latest news on a new family puppy. Larger public schools simply cannot replicate this comraderie and certainly not on this level for every student. Ms. French-Weston has started a board that acknowledges “Random Acts of Kindness”. The next time you visit, please take a few moments to look at the board right outside of the kitchen to see not only the kind things our students have done, but also the close-knit community that takes the time to notice and celebrate these wonderful deeds.
What does having “A Sense of Belonging” in school ultimately lead to for our students? For many, it is the first time that they have felt understood as learners or as people. It leads to improved grades and tangible academic success. Most importantly, in my eyes, it boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. Most parents seek us out to solve academic and learning problems, yet it seems that “A Sense of Belonging” is the first milestone our students reach on their way to tremendous successes... and it might make all the difference.
Take a look at all the things that set Norman Howard apart. What Sets Us Apart