Ever have one of those moments where you think, Oh pickles, I think I just really screwed up? No? Just me?
Like many educators, I renew my certifications in the summer before school starts. This past August, I was scheduled for a CPR class and a CPI (crisis prevention training) class. The trainings were organized by our district so I anticipated that I would see familiar faces when I walked into the conference room in our local hospital. As I looked around, I didn’t recognize a single person. In fact, they didn’t even look like educators–not sure how I could tell, but I guess we just have a particular look about us.
I walked in right as the class was starting–I am not one of those ”10 minutes early is on time” people. I am one of those “I don’t have ten minutes to waste waiting for a meeting to start” people. Because it was already starting, I didn’t have time to ask if I was in the right spot. I was on edge, wondering if I should be in this particular class. I was furiously taking notes because they were moving really fast with the information and I couldn’t even pull out my phone to see if I had mixed the classes up.
As the instructor gave examples of when we might use the skills he was teaching us, he continuously used hospital scenarios. My anxiety heightened, feeling like I did not belong in the class and wondering what I should do. The people in the class didn’t look like my people. I didn’t understand some of what the instructor was saying because I had never worked in a hospital. I was not supposed to be there and I was extremely uncomfortable.
About an hour into the class, the instructor said one word that immediately comforted me and allowed me to settle into my seat. He said, “educators will use this…”. My ears perked up and I thought, I am an educator. I do belong. The intense power of that one word has stuck with me because I was surprised at how uncomfortable I was in the class, and I was even more surprised that one simple word completely shifted how I felt that morning.
So, turns out that I was in the wrong class. I had switched the dates for my CPR and CPI classes and ended up in an advanced CPR class for those who work in the medical field. There was even a doctor there taking the class. I am proud to tell you that I passed the course and, after I felt like I belonged, I actually enjoyed being challenged with some new learning rather than taking the same ‘ole class I take every year.
I rarely feel like I don’t belong, and I think being a white middle class woman helps with that. This opportunity to feel the panic and anxiety that arises in us when we don’t feel like we belong was serendipitous because of the lesson it taught me. I share this story not because I have inclusiveness and belonging figured out, I share it because I want every single student, staff member, and family to feel like they belong at our school, and this situation helped me realize that just one word or one picture can say, “I see you and you belong here.”
Of course, there is so much more we can do, but simple changes are a great place to start. Changing “Dear Parents,” to “Dear Families” is one way to include all types of family members and guardians. This year our staff decided to change events like “Muffins with Moms” to “Muffins in the Morning”. Crayons packs with different types of flesh colors and diverse books and posters are other simple changes we are making. We have a long way to go, but recognizing that one inclusive word or picture can have a huge impact is motivation to continue the journey.
How do you help every student, staff member, and family feel belonging at your school? Share your ideas at #SerendipityEDU. We are better together.
When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.