Today I've had reason to think about belonging. This is because tomorrow is swimming sports day. It's my first at this school and we head down to the local pool for the day. I know I'm in 'red' house but I forget the actual name of the house. I'm happy to be in red house because I like the colour. I've been asking around about the day and the staff tell me that about half the kids will go and the rest will take a day off. Some kids say they don't go because they don't get to swim and some say they are going and are having a party and don't really concern themselves with the swimming events. I haven't spoken to too many swimmers yet.
My previous school was a new school and I was there at the start. It was an amazing experience to build a school from scratch. I was one of the new Leading Teachers and besides being Head of Maths I also had the responsibility as Head of House. My house's colour turned out to be silver which was much better than the grey that was first suggested. The colours came from the colours that would be used in the house areas of the new building and technically the colour for my house was 'aloe vera'. How it translated to grey, I don't know but I knew that grey was not going to be inspiring. We needed a colour that students could dress up in, be unique in and enjoy if they were to feel like they belonged to Wood (named after Dr Fiona Wood) house. All staff were aligned with a House and we sat in house areas. I loved this. We were part of something very special and the key was around school expectation. It helped that everyone was new and we were all keen to make it work. We managed to build that sense of belonging because the teachers who were in the area with the students were all in the same house. The teachers were competitive and patriotic and we dressed up and took part in everything as well.
It's a more difficult proposition to build this culture in an established school. Towards the end of my time at my first school we moved from year level groups to a vertical, 'house' structure although we called them Learning teams. Much thought went into naming the teams and colours and how we would promote that sense of belonging because that's what this is about. We wanted the kids to feel they were part of something that was bigger than them and that made them feel supported.
Teachers want to belong too. We feel supported by the teams that we work in an this experience is amped up when we also belong to a team that our students are part of and we share in these experiences. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I have a red hat and a red t-shirt and I think I can even find some red shoes. I can't wait to be with the students tomorrow and see how our team goes. I'd better try and remember the team name though!