Brittany Perro shares her story of encouraging belongingness in her 8th grade Humanities class at High Tech Middle North County in San Marcos, CA through the CARE network.
BRITTANY PERRO: My experience in the care network has been awesome so far. It’s been really great to be able to collect some data from our students to understand what is working well in the classroom and not make assumptions about what we think is working well in the classroom.
My eighth grade team is focusing on improving belonging in the classroom. So some of our change ideas involve students checking in more with teachers at the beginning of class as one of the welcoming routines that we’ve implemented. The students put their head down on the desk and I read off different feelings that they may be feeling. And they put their hand up when it is a reflection of how they’re feeling.
This is something that a student actually came up with when I went to students and asked them how I could anonymously check in with them. And so far, it’s actually helped me surface some issues that were happening with a couple of students that I don’t think I would have gotten if it wasn’t for that routine.
And then another thing we’ve been trying is we’ve been trying to have more opportunities for students to connect to each other. So I’ve started implementing a change idea that we call Positive Eye, where students receive a little card with another student’s name on it at the beginning of class and their task is to keep an eye on that student throughout class and try to capture them doing something great.
At the end of class, we trade those cards and then the students also have an opportunity to do vocal shout-outs. So the student leaves with the card with something positive and they also get to hear something positive about themselves before they leave.
Something I’m learning through the cares network is that no matter how hard you work as a teacher to increase belonging in the classroom if it’s not owned by the students and not implemented by the students, then it just turns into a higher score for teacher caring and not necessarily a higher feeling of belonging.
So what I’m trying to do this year is really put the power back into the kids’ hands where they feel like they can help build this sense of belonging. So the level of voice and choice that needs to go into that is way higher than I think I’ve had in the past. And I’m really excited for kids just to take ownership over other kids feeling like they belong in the classroom.