You stand in a room overflowing with people you don’t know. Scanning the edges and center, an uncomfortable feeling settles in your throat. Until a glimmer out of the corner of your eye, aaahh…you connect with a friendly face. The look of delight as you both connect is one of joy as if to say ‘all’s well in the world’. I would dare to say who hasn’t had this experience? Even for the self-proclaimed extrovert, connection matters. We were born to connect and share that with a community (whether it is a community of one or many). Remember the first time you were introduced to your baby? Or first day of class startups (students and staff)? Yes, lots of emotions.
The advent of social media has challenged the concept of community. At an event, do you see heads down, fingers tapping? Or when asked a question the first reaction is to reach for the phone. Those who research the social media phenomena have a host of explanations like Danah Boyd, who commented on how teens view social media (download her book) or Frontline explored the notion on the PBS show, Generation Like. There are also any number of sites focused on the ‘connected educator’ and learning in the social media context. Technology is not the enemy, rather it is an accelerator of things deeper. What links all of these is the human need for connection (face-to-face, online or more likely a blend of both).
Connection affirms our significance in the world. This is especially important in our schools. When we acknowledge the connection (whether they are with our students or our staffs or parents) we offer a place for that individual to shine, to be recognized as a valued member of the community. Their contributions (great and small) are important to our lives. The “You Matter” revolution (by Angela Maiers) is a movement that has taken many places by storm as it resonates at the very core of our being. Whether the result is a promotion of Genius Hour or We Day or a change in how we see ourselves, it all starts with connecting to who we are as individuals, who we are in relation to others, and what we do in response.
In our classrooms and schools, do we notice and give voice to significance? Do we offer that to our parents, our students and our teachers in authentic ways? How much do we believe “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution” (Seth Godin)? What if we started our day with this articulated out loud? I wonder how the day would unfold. Wouldn’t you?