A critical factor in the behaviour of any class or individual is how attached they feel to the class/school/community. Even as adults we need to feel valued within our community or our job. When leaving a role to start a new job, the period of notice worked can often start the process of feeling disconnected from an organisation and possibly change the motivation levels of an employee. The same applies with children who feel their place is tentative within a setting or that the adult in the room may not be around for the long haul. Staff changes can be unavoidable but we can take steps to reassure children of their place within the classroom in the most subtle of ways, embedding subconsciously their value and bolstering their sense of self value.
Use of language
This is key – using “us” and “our” instead of “my” when discussing the classroom can help give children a subtle form of ownership within the environment.
When children are away try to respond to this on their return, highlighting that they were missed and offering support to catch them up. This may seem obvious to many but it can get lost in the hectic schedule of the teaching week. The key thing here would be to consider something that the child would have offered to that session and communicating it was noticed it was missing.
Giving a child a regular, defined role within the classroom can help them to both enjoy success within the classroom and increase their sense of belonging. If you wanted to develop this further, the use of an interview with the Headteacher, a high visibility jacket and a clipboard with image based task list might help those who struggle to come in first thing in the morning.
Every child has at least one interest. Highlight them within your classroom on a display using the title “Ask me about…”. Designating experts on certain topics within your classroom can help children to feel useful and important within the classroom and also give them a sense of responsibility to educate others on a given topic.
As hard as it can be, we must moderate our language around exclusion. Phrases like “do you want to be at this school? Well you must do…” can undermine any attachment a child has to a school. If a child’s place at a school is truly threatened, a process of calm discussion and explanation should occur with the child around how to make a change, but this should be a last resort.
I am terrible at remembering names and am working hard at it. But name recall doesn’t just apply to direct class teachers, it also applies to senior management and other staff. It’s important that the child knows a positive reason why you know their name – it cannot simply be because they are “always in your office”. It could be their area of expertise.
Do you have any ideas to help children feel belonging in the classroom through this COVID-19 period? Get in touch!