Writings on the people, programs and philosophies behind BSS.

The Magazine

The Link Fall 2018

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A Place to Belong

Will I fit in?” “Will others like me?” “Will I find friends?” Everyone asks herself these questions at different points in her life, and at any age and stage. Starting a new school, joining a new club, contemplating a career change, we may still return to these questions that reflect our foundational humanity, and our individual worries about acceptance and identity.

When we know we fit in, that others like us, and that we have friends, we feel that we belong. Along with that comes feeling good about oneself. When we belong, we are able to be positive about differences that we see, accept them, learn about them, and celebrate them. Belonging is emotional too. To feel it one needs to have a sense of sisterhood, of support and encouragement in a safe space. Indeed, having that sense of belonging means a girl can take on more challenges, grow freely and take more risks.

Belonging also means that girls have a support network, and research tells us that her network doesn’t have to be big. A girl might only need a couple of good friends. Of course this is countercultural to the push on social media for “friends” and “likes” but a few good friends will be a support network that eases stress, provides much needed connection, and again as research shows, actually promotes higher levels of achievement.

At BSS, belonging takes many forms. Girls formally belong to Houses, TAG groups, sports teams, musical groups, and all sorts of clubs. We also know that students feel a sense of belonging through strong classroom support, allowing students to build confidence, take risks and find their voices. Interestingly, research shows that teachers’ support can be the most substantial influence in middle school students’ sense of belonging, above their peers and friends.

Belonging is also deeply connected with citizenship, the respect and value for who one is, and for their gifts and differences. Building citizens who know that they need to have voice and action in their own communities and beyond will create a sense of belonging that stems from practical, active involvement; to be included is also to be participating in a community.

In our Junior School, students are highly involved in so many ways. Our Flemingdon Park initiative allows girls and their families to prepare meals and share them with families from Flemingdon Park. Belonging is also a key goal of our Junior School Outdoor Education work where the JK – Grade 2s make connections with the natural world that is just outside the door of the school, which strengthens their sense of belonging in their own backyard.

In the Middle School, belonging so often emerges in meaningful connections outside of students’ peer groups, from experiences beyond the school. The Middle School has entered its third year in partnership with the Russell Hill Senior Residence to create programming that brings people from different generations together to share experiences and build meaningful connections. Empathy and a strong desire to help others provides our students’ impetus to participate in the program, but they quickly realize that the reciprocity of the experience helps them understand themselves better. Writing poems and singing together creates a profound sense of belonging in a larger intergenerational experience.

Students in the Senior School find belonging occurs in expected and unexpected ways. Identifying as athletes or singers, they will find their place with fellow athletes and musicians, but as they pursue their scholarly work, they develop that wonderful sense of belonging when their interests evolve in more sophisticated ways. Belonging can also come from learning that one loves economics, or calculus, or chemistry, or history, and feeling that discovery of deep learning with a group who also experiences that euphoria from deeper knowledge.

We hope you enjoy reading about the many ways there are to belong in this issue of The Link. We want all our students to find those ways, and to feel that when they have come to BSS, they have come home.

 

Dr. Angela Terpstra
Fall 2018