Do I Belong Here?

Written by Joy Roberts., co-founder of Friendzy [email protected]

Every morning, students step into the sights and sounds of a new school day. The peppering of book bags across the school lawn and blurs of denim in the hallway become constants and coefficients in a complex set of equations:

Do I belong here? Am I safe? Do my peers and teachers care about me?

God has created us with a deep desire to belong in a community with others.  Barely two chapters into the book of Genesis, God declares, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). And though we continue to evolve into the most technologically connected generation of humans to ever exist, these increasingly accessible digital tools have often widened the valley of our collective social disconnection. We naturally desire connection with others.

Research indicates that when we yearn for social interaction, our brain is activated in the same region where we see activity when we are hungry. Social exclusion also shows up in the same part of our brains where we register pain.

As educators, we can make a difference in the lives of our students. Students who feel seen, known, loved and cared for at school are more likely to have greater academic success, self-motivation and a willingness to keep trying when things are challenging. Relationships act as a protective barrier for our students.

St. Thomas Aquinas describes friendship as the way we live out heaven on earth, allowing us to put into practice the love we share with God (Summa, Part 2.2, Questions 23-26)

These meaningful connections we make with our students help them manage stress and anxiety while building their ability to be resilient when working through challenging situations. The power of belonging is profoundly beautiful. Our relationships with our students are the manifestation of God’s perfect design for His children. We are truly better together.

It is not just through our words, but through our morning hello’s and encouraging notes, our thoughtful classroom setup and modeling of kindness, our engaging lessons and our gentle coaching that we say to our students, “You were meant to be in my classroom, and I am glad you are here.” A child who believes that message is a child that spreads a sense of belonging to their peers. Our classrooms are a petri dish! Through one student who spends one moment with one caring adult, the spark of belonging is kindled.

This is what Friendzy is all about: kindling the spark of belonging for every Catholic school student.