- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging
- Social & Emotional Learning
The start of the school year is full of new things. Meeting new faces, learning new places, and understanding a new culture can be intimidating - for everyone and anyone.
Creating a sense of community among students and helping them to build a sense of belonging to their school is crucial to their development and can ease the transition of the start of a new school year.
According to a January 2022 article in Psychology Today, researchers have shown that students' feelings of school belonging can have a profound impact on well-being, identity development, and mental health. And we are learning that these impacts can last well into adulthood.
“Nothing matters more to students than the sense of belonging,” says Mark A. Devey, Head of School. “As a school community, we take pride in going out of our way not just to include others but to see them and value them for who they are.”
As part of a large group activity during Orientation, students and faculty participated in a few rounds of the game “I Do, Too” to find commonalities among various community members. Following the game, they answered guided questions within their Advisory groups. Students defined the terms inclusion, fitting-in, and belonging, and the emotions attached to those terms.
The Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership defines belonging as feeling uniquely seen, heard, and valued – different from being inclusive or fitting-in. In a 1993 journal article, researchers Carol Goodenow and Kathleen Grady specifically defined school belonging as, "the extent to which children feel individually welcomed, respected, included, and supported by others within the school social environment."
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, researcher and author Brené Brown, Ph.D. further explains: “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”
Following the discussions and sharing of personal experiences, students and faculty explored ways in which we can create belonging in our Perkiomen School community.
“We have 130 new students this fall,” says Mr. Devey. “Everyone, including the those who have attended Perkiomen for many years, feels a bit nervous and insecure at the start of a new year. We’ve all been ‘new’ before. We’re all in this together, and we are all better when we create an environment of belonging."