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Blog: Friday, May 20th, 2022

The Importance of Connection

This year at Fraser Middle School, we have been exploring ways to promote the conditions necessary to enable all students to reach their full potential.  Although this endeavor is not a new one, this year we decided to view this important work through a social/emotional lens.  We recognize that academic excellence is a huge part of every student’s potential, but also understand that the social and emotional aspects of a student’s learning experience are just as important.  After all, Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education”.

The idea of social and emotional learning is a complex one with many different aspects.  But like any great journey, it needs to begin with a single step.  For us, one of those early steps was simply: strengthening connection.  Part of our school goals this year have been dedicated to the promotion of student success by examining the importance of connection, and how focusing on strong social and emotional connections with our students can ultimately lead to the promotion of equity and inclusion in our building. 

Our school has sought to strengthen connection in many small ways. One such example was the creating of paddles and learning about canoe culture with our grade 8 Indigenous students, so that before they transitioned to high school they could enjoy one last paddle together as a cohort and celebrate how far they had come on their learning journey together. Other examples included things like the creation of social groups such as open mic music club, mountain trail biking club, and even gardening club.  Celebrations of learning, athletics, and showcasing student success on our TVs were all other wonder ways to allow students to feel connected to the learning communities of which they are apart.

One simple, yet powerful activity that worked well this year in terms of fostering connection between students and teachers was the implementation of something we called the ‘postcard project’.  This year during staff meetings, one of the agenda items we regularly included was to take some time as a staff to discuss those students we would like to intentionally reach out to, and then write them a post card.  The message was often a simple yet authentic one rooted in either appreciation, support, acknowledgement, pride, or even just a note to let the students know they were in their teacher’s thoughts.  These post cards would then be gathered and mailed home to the students so that in a day or two, they would have a piece of mail addressed to them to open and read at home.

This activity didn’t take very long, nor was it an overly complicated or expensive initiative, but the power of a simple act of reaching out to tell our students we were proud of them was something that we found had a significant impact. Students’ responses to receiving these notes was always overwhelmingly positive. Often students would share that this simple gesture made their day, or helped brighten a weekend which otherwise may have felt heavy with other challenges. Some teachers received pictures of their students smiling and holding their notes proudly, where others received phone calls from parents thanking them for taking the time to recognize something wonderful in their children.

One of our take aways from this activity was that regardless of how busy the school year might feel, taking a few moments to reach out to students and let them know we are proud of them is worth doing regularly. When students feel seen, acknowledged, and know the adults working with them understand their story, they feel a little more connected to their place of learning. May is a busy time, and our various schools will certainly find that summer is on our doorsteps in the blink of an eye.  During these next few weeks, we encourage everyone to take an extra moment here and there to let your students know they are seen and appreciated. After all, these intentional acts don’t take much, yet go a long way toward strengthening connection and relationships in our buildings.

Vice Principal, WA Fraser Middle School