We All Need Belonging | Hooray for Monday

January 24, 2021

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

Belonging matters. According to anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, our sense of belonging is an important predictor of our well-being. As he explains in this recent episode of my favorite podcast Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda, the number and quality of our close friendships can be the best predictor of our psychological, and physical health and even an indicator of how well and long we’re likely to live.

That can feel like a steep hill to climb. Especially during these, now years, of social distancing. It can feel overwhelming to think about making new friends, or even nurturing existing friendships. As we continue to prioritize physical safety, many of us are feeling the desire for connection, and our need for belonging may be trending toward the unmet end of the spectrum.

This week I’m continuing to explore the ABCDEs of human needs, a tool Center for Inspired Teaching developed based on psychologist William Glasser’s Choice Theory. We originally developed the ABCDEs as a tool for teachers to use to analyze, understand, and empathize with students in distress. That original purpose is still a critically important part of our restorative approach to discipline in the classroom. However, as we continue to persevere through the extreme challenges of teaching during this pandemic, it’s wise to tend to our own needs as well – and the ABCDEs can help.

As we did last week with Autonomy, we’re offering a few simple questions to help you gauge how well your need for Belonging is being met right now – and to help you devise some steps to take…to meet it.

“I want to feel connected to and valued by those around me.”  

Belonging is our psychological need to love and care for others and to believe that we are loved and cared for in family relationships, friendships, and working relationships. To belong, we must connect with people by cooperating, caring, sharing, and being involved.

Where is this need in your life right now according to this spectrum? 

How is this need for belonging being met in your life right now?

What changes might be necessary in order for your need for belonging to be better met? 

You can engage with these questions on our ABCDE website.

There are bigger hills to climb for sure as we strive to meet our need for belonging. But small steps can be beautiful if they are taken with intention. So start small – and notice the communities which fuel your sense of belonging. (See below for a reflection to help you identify these.)

And while you’re at it, don’t forget about the Hooray For Monday community! You belong to our community of teachers and parents who are committed to making school engaging and meaningful for students everywhere. Your presence in our community, and your practice in your own schools and families, contribute so much. Thank you.

Small Steps to Greater Belonging – A Reflection

There are lots of ways our sense of belonging can be bolstered – even with small steps.

Give yourself 3 minutes to list communities you are part of – listing as many as you can. Your list can include:

  • Communities you’ve deliberately chosen to join (a book group or improv class);
  • Communities that have selected you (your place of employment or your college alumni association);
  • Communities you are a part of by default (the street on which you live or your family or the parents of your child’s friends); and,
  • Any other community that’s a part of your identity.
  • Include online communities too (like, for example, the Schitt’s Creek Fans Group on Facebook or a particular list you follow on Instagram).

Pause for a moment. It’s worth simply noting how many communities you belong to. Even communities we may take for granted (the street I live on comes to mind) count.

Next, choose one of the communities to which you belong. Ask yourself:

  • What do I contribute to this community that is of value? Or… What could I contribute that is of value?
  • Then consider the other side of the question: What does this community offer me that is of value? Or… What could this community offer me that is of value?

The simple act of considering these questions – for one community or for all of them – can build connection, and help meet the need for belonging. And it may turn out that some communities truly bring value, and merit more of our time and energy, while some may not serve our needs as much as they once did. That learning is useful too.

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