Why is school connectedness so important?

Why is school connectedness so important?

What is school connectedness ans why is is it so important? Imagine a sea full of eager hungry fish. In said ecosystem, we can easily predict what will happen; the larger hungrier fish eat the smaller fish. Let’s say our kids are these fish. Does each one of these specimens have a sense of belonging in this unforgiving ecosystem? Do they feel they serve a purpose?

Whether your child’s school experience consists of a handful of kids in a grade where everyone is on a first-name basis or a large public school that contains more than 500 kids per grade. School can be that brutal, vast, deep ocean. I think, if we make any attempt to remember our own experiences in school, we can agree that as amazing as it could have been, brutal it was.

Schooling needs to make a difference in the lives of our children. Its impact needs to be profound and satisfactory so that our children may depart with the necessary academic independence and tenacity that can be carried with them into the competitive professional arena. How do we ensure that our kid’s school experience is meaningful? How do we ensure that our children feel cared for and valued by their educators and by their very classmates? This is where “School Connectedness” proves to play a crucial role. 

RELATED: Want to read more on school connectedness, Kaprea F. Johnson has a some very helpful insights Norm Related Pro-Social Behavior in Elementary School Youth: The Influence of Academic Self-Efficacy and School Connectedness.

School Connectedness

“School Connectedness is the belief held by students that adults and peers in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals. (The importance of school connectedness is backed by research that) has shown that young people who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in many risky behaviors, including early sexual initiation, alcohol, tobacco, drug use, violence and gang involvement.”1 School connectedness is, therefore, a preemptive force that can ultimately deter and thus save children from eventual pitfalls. 

RELATED:Do you work with students with disabilities? Find out more on how you can create a positive ambience and sense of coneectedness between your students and their experience with school here School Connectedness for Students with Disabilities. #CommissionsEarned

Dr. Bowles from the University of Melbourne and his team are “researching connectedness in primary and secondary schools to help find ways to build and strengthen this important plank in the education system. (They are) investigating how connectedness links with factors like loneliness and school achievement.” The team has found that a vast majority of schools concentrate mainly on curriculum as well as results and not so much in creating a “deep foundation of valued relationships and worthwhile routines and experiences.” The result of this negligence is that for some children, school can be considered to be an empty experience to be avoided and devalued.

How can educators encourage connectedness?

Bowles, Scull and Russo provide a 4-factor model that establishes “a student’s current experience of school, (thus leading to a greater) understanding (regarding the) actions teachers need to take to help (students) become more connected.” 

4-Factor Model: attending leads to belonging which leads to engagement which leads to flow.

The research team recommends that schools promote activities that stimulate routine attendance investing specifically in those students who are repeatedly absent, aiming at preventing feelings of isolation and discontent. Following the 4-factor model, schools must also place importance on student life, creating experiences that build on shared values. As students gain a sense of belonging “they can become engaged and immersed in a learning environment that prompts positive social engagement in and beyond the school… Students (then naturally gravitate towards a) state of ‘flow’ (where) they (can extend) themselves beyond the familiar, experiencing intense immersion, involved in activities that are highly challenging and rewarding, and lead to transcendent levels of achievement.”

Connectedness also highlights the importance of the Education Triangle, whose pillars consist of parents, students, and school staff. It is fundamental to student success that these three sides achieve and remain in harmony.  As integral parts, each side must advocate for the students well being and integral growth as well as a sense of connectedness to their educational environment,  ensuring that the school experience is something that is looked forward to and valued. It is our duty as parents and educators, to make sure all three pillars of this triangle are working in unison so that students will not only succeed academically but also independently in the competitive professional arena.   

  • In what ways does your school currently implement school connectedness? 
  • Where do you believe your schools’ strengths lie considering the 4-factor model?
  • Do you/ your children’s school currently implement an action plan to deter repeated absenteeism?
  • Does your school actively reach out to those students who are repeatedly absent?
  • Can you envision connectives as a proactive preventative tool for at-risk kids?
  • Do you feel that there is a proactive support system for your child?
  • If not, could you suggest implementing a system that promotes growth in your child?

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). School Connectedness.https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/school_connectedness.htm.

A review by Cristina Pereira. Original article here: By Dr Terry Bowles, University of Melbourne, Associate Professor Janet Scull, Monash University and Daniela Russo, University of Melbourne.

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