“In schools today teachers, parents, administrators, and many personnel are working really hard to create a mentality that says everyone belongs; and, our hope and dream is to create a coherent place where belonging and purpose and desire are nurtured for everyone,” says Tim Shriver, Co-Founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Founder of UNITE. “That’s a vision for the United States not just for kids,” says Shriver.
Even during the physical separation of distance learning, we know there are dedicated teachers and leaders providing students with the knowledge and tools to push past the disconnection and division. Daily, these educators are striving to build student competencies so young people grow into adults who can maintain healthier relationships, have more empathy for others, and recognize and celebrate everyone’s uniqueness. Each day in school, students are learning to make more responsible decisions, overcome personal challenges, and work together to create constructive solutions to difficult problems. These educators are helping ensure our students enter adulthood as more caring, more productive, and engaged citizens and people.
No doubt, we still face tough, complex large problems; and, of course, it is the responsibility of adults to fix them. But, we also understand that it’s the adults of tomorrow that will create the long-term sustainable change for future generations. With the right tools and supports, our students – all students – are poised to become the adults who build a better US, who can, just maybe, ensure that everyone not just survives, but thrives. Understanding how to build and maintain connections, relationships, and belonging is central to creating healing in the present and hope for the future.
“We have seen that brains are opened by relationship, by trust, by belonging,” says Shriver. “That brain is fired up and ready to absorb information, to be motivated with purpose, and to learn. The brain not opened up by relationship and trust is closed. Nothing is going in. You can scream at that brain and rant and rave against the child, it’s not going to make any difference,” says Shriver. “No relationship, no learning.”
“Schools have an opportunity,” says Dr. James Comer, Maurice Falk Professor in the Child Study Center; Associate Dean for Student Affairs, School of Medicine, “the school has to reach out and offer belonging . . . and hold on to the hearts and minds of children.”
We believe that as well. In schools across America, educators are emerging as the leaders to take on many of the ills that face us. Their inspiring stories, the courageous stories of the students, and our reflective common conversation can create a powerful transformation so that we may find what has been lost or create that which was never there.
So that we may each belong.
We are honored to be a part of this movement with them and with you, as we move toward a better US.