Building Belonging at School: Safety and Authenticity 

 In Belonging, Connection, Mental Health

In 2023, Springtide embarked on new research with students from Catholic schools from across the country. The findings revealed some specific insights around creating a sense of belonging for students. In this post, we share some insights inspired by this research and other Springtide data on how safety and authenticity are foundational for belonging. 

Safety is a top priority for creating an environment of belonging. A key to developing a sense of safety is ensuring that students can bring their full selves to the school experience. There are ways to bring that sense of belonging further into the classroom and curriculum. 

Adopting a culture of authenticity in which you engage with students to understand their needs not only helps young people succeed but also allows them to be vulnerable and to connect in a way that facilitates a greater sense of belonging. 

Springtide data show that authenticity is a core value for members of Gen Z. Meaning Making: 8 Values That Drive America’s Newest Generations (2020) reports that nearly half of survey respondents say that if they are not being who they truly are, they are lying to the world. More than half of respondents agree that it is important to be their authentic selves in an organization or group.

  1. Connect with students to cocreate belonging with them. Both prior social science research and our data show that when young people have meaningful relationships with adults in their environments, they feel engaged, supported, and more invested, even going beyond what’s asked of them. By allowing them to help shape activities that connect them to their peers and activate their interests, you will help them feel a sense of belonging. 
  2. Engage students in developing rules for your class, team, or group by facilitating conversations about what they need from you and from one another to thrive. You might do this at the start of a semester or midway through as a check-in and reset. The goal is for everyone to work together to create a safe, supportive space.
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