A Sense of Belonging

Anne Swayze
Can you recall a time, a moment when you felt that deep sense of belonging? Belonging to someone, to something, and understanding the importance of human connection.
Particularly at schools such as Greenwood, the element of belonging is inextricably linked to feeling happy, confident, and secure. But, how do we measure whether we belong and embrace the concept of belonging? 

How I recall the opening day on campus this past September, watching our returning students high five and greet their friends and watching our new students tentatively navigate their new surroundings. A game of frisbee or cornhole slowly took shape, and invitations were extended to our new students to join the activity. Slowly, returning students approached new students, perhaps their mentees, and invited them to head up to the dorm, sit for a round of MAGIC, or grab a snack in the dining room. Slowly, once parents had departed from campus, a van was filled with returning and new students as they headed to the Putney culvert for a dip in the river. It happens, this sense of acceptance and belonging. 

As I move through campus, I recognize so many moments, large and small, that reflect how our students find their path, create new friendships, stretch their sense of comfort, and welcome challenges. Belonging creates a deep feeling of security and acceptance, which is one of the reasons families find themselves embracing the Greenwood mission. The realization that we can be our truest self, our authentic self, happens when we are accepted for who we are, how we learn, and what we believe in. 

If I were to cast a wide net over campus and ask faculty and students to recall when and how they felt accepted, they would mention finding a group of like-minded learners, participating in shared experiences, or leaning in during an energized conversation. Human connection. 

Our teachers welcome multifaceted learners into their classrooms; our students thrive when they feel supported and cared for by another human being; our teachers are deeply committed to our school and their students; our students forge strong relationships with their peers; our teachers and our students love our dogs, and our dogs love their humans. Perhaps, the human to animal relationship can be considered one of the strongest markers of belonging. 

So, as we enter our final three weeks of the winter term and prepare for our key signature program, The Gettysburg Address, let’s acknowledge how far we have traveled as a community since September. No doubt we are stronger, more resilient, and more powerful as a whole than as individuals. We are the links in the chain of community, and we belong to each other.