Connectedness is a fundamental psychological human need. Just as food, water and shelter are needed for physical survival, connectedness is a basic requirement for psychological stability. People need to feel accepted and they need to feel a sense of belonging. It is well documented that without connectedness, individual potential will not be realised. It is also well documented that a lack of connectedness is one cause of depression and anxiety.
Children and adults seek acceptance and pursue connectedness in a variety of ways. The pursuit of acceptance and connectedness by children in the school environment typically plays out in one of two ways.
- Consumer. The first approach has the mindset of consumer. It focuses on self and one’s own rights. This approach is often pursued through material values such as affluence, status and competition. A child may boast about their new Smiggle stationery or the fact that they came first in a competition, to try and win over the attention of others and be liked. This approach is inward-looking and, while it may have the glittery wow factor and result in short-term attention, it rarely leads to connectedness.
- Contributor. The second approach has the mindset of contributor. It focuses on peers and one’s responsibilities towards others. This approach is often pursued through humility and servant-hearted values. A child may demonstrate care, kindness and compassion towards their peers, with a strong sense of authenticity and loyalty, combined with the genuine ability to show forgiveness. This approach is outward-looking; it involves spending meaningful time with others and listening more than talking. It builds trust, and is most likely to result in acceptance and deep connectedness.
Please do not misunderstand me – I am not suggesting that having material possessions or excelling above others is a bad thing. People work hard for these accolades and should be proud of the effort they have exerted in order to accomplish such things. The concern comes when the motivation for pursuing these things is to gain attention or acceptance – these qualities are not the qualities that will lead to dependable friendships and connectedness. It is a person’s outward-looking qualities that will lead to connectedness. By way of example, the most revered sports people are at first renowned for their physical mastery (short-term attention), but their esteem is often sustained only when they go on to demonstrate the qualities that penetrate deep into the heart of humanity (long-term connectedness).
We have six school values: compassion, doing your best, forgiveness, respect, responsibility and teamwork. The greater part of these values is outward-looking. We spend more time at our fortnightly assemblies celebrating these values and promoting activity that serves others, than we do celebrating individual accomplishments. Why? Because we know that when children excel in values-based qualities, they are most likely to feel connected within community, and it is from this foundation that they will reach their potential.
At the start of this year I challenged members of the community to use the question ‘What does love require of me?’ as a motivator in decision-making. When used as a motivator in human interaction, acting on this question can lead to deep connectedness.
When we seek to bring out the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. William Arthur Ward
The only way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Mahatma Gandhi
- Jane Mueller, Principal