More than just a water cooler chat

Those who know me, even if they know me just a little, are aware of how passionate I am about inclusivity and students with special educational needs. However, that is not what I am here to talk about today. I want to share what I have found this year. Not even in my wildest dreams, I would have imagined a year such as 2018. The objectives I had established back at the end of 2017 were way too bold, pretentious I would say and everything I have accomplished this year happened because I could count on the support of peers, my boss, the school I work for and people from our community. Yes, I will step out of the classroom mode and share my personal account on how I have found a sense of belonging in the staff room.

Karin Hall Ph.D. claimed on Psychology Today (March 2014) that “a sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter”. Still according to her, when there is a connection to others you realise that people struggle and go through hard times, you understand that you are not alone. That is exactly what I have experienced recently when participating in important ELT events it dawned on me that conferences and staff rooms are very much alike in terms of environment. Likewise speaking in conferences, realising that your message is being received and more importantly, validated is instrumental in this process of building one’s sense of belonging. I first noticed that I was part of a bigger entity when I came across teachers putting ideas, previously discussed with me, into practice or even when I had first been asked for assistance.

Way more important and significant than that was observing what happened last semester in my working place. The cultural task force decided to invite teachers to participate in some specific events featuring as “ambassadors”. We would have different representatives for each and every cultural event held in our branch. Interesting, right? They went a step further, at the end of every month, a publication was issued with a special post to the ambassadors who had previously received a small token with a personalised note. Noticing how grateful those teachers were for being valued and having their efforts acknowledged, myself included, was priceless. Coming back to Karin Hall Ph.D.’s article, she says that a sense of belonging to a greater community improves one’s motivation, health, and happiness. So I have decided to list some things that had happened to me and helped me feel as part of something bigger than me:

I was listened to

Maybe the most important one in this list as it triggered a lot of emotions and ignited me towards this constant seek for self-improvement as a person and as a professional. Understanding that your voice is being heard is priceless, if you have novice teachers or less experienced ones in your staff room, listen to them. Genuinely and open-hearted.

My accomplishments were celebrated and my work validated

Extraordinary things happened this year, when I was first selected for a national conference everyone was there celebrating with me, our boss included. Starting a blog was undoubtedly one of the boldest initiatives I have taken in my life since I decided to get married! (love you, babe). In less than four months and because of our enormous sense of community, I was given the chance to interview relevant people in our current scenario such as Mark Hancock, Luiz Otávio Barros and more recently, Claire Venables.

I could count on full support from my superiors

Only two months after starting our blog a booklet was produced to summarise a powerful conference held in Sao Paulo in September. Against all the odds, not only the final product was really well received but it will also be replicated with full support from my boss and my superiors. Notice that I am not talking about conventional messages of support here, I am talking about legitimate demonstrations of encouragement and appreciation, reflected in actions aiming at further development of the initial ideas. If you are someone’s boss, congratulate but go the extra mile too. It is worth trying I promise.

I have found my working soulmates

I will not talk about creating exclusive groups where only the most distinguished member are allowed to be part of. When the staff room makes room for fruitful discussions and develops a teaching community, seeking professional development whether individually or in groups, chances are that you will eventually find someone that share the same ambitions and beliefs as yours. Working alongside your working soulmates enhances your productivity, opens your mind to new possibilities and gives you the courage to embrace new challenges.

Posting here on Richmond’s Blog is something way beyond I had expected for this year, but that would have never happened if I had not been listened to in the first place and here I have to leave a thank you note to Luan Granzotto who kindly helped me with this one. Let’s start from there towards a very productive 2019. I wish you all the best Holidays and a super new year!

Link:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201403/create-sense-belonging

Rodrigo Fagundes Correia

Rodrigo Correia has been an EFL teacher for almost 9 years. He works for Cultura Inglesa – SP with Young Learners, Teens and Adults. CPE and Anaheim TESOL Certificate holder, he has presented in ABCI and Braz-Tesol Conferences and his main interests are professional development, inclusion, and students with special needs. You may contact him at rfcorreia@gmail.com

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