Headmistress's Blog: A sense of belonging

A sense of belonging is one of the strongest human emotions. It is a fundamental need described by Maslow’s Hierarchy as the next most crucial thing to safety and basic physiological requirements. The theory states that belonging is even higher in the pecking order to us than self-esteem and certainly we can all relate to the value we get from family and friendship and the feeling of warmth that comes when one is a valued part of a community.

School provides young people with so many valuable opportunities to feel part of groups. It is almost tribal, with Houses, form groups, sports teams, academic clubs, orchestras and drama ensembles to name but a few. All reasons to encourage participation in varied extracurricular activities so enabling young people to explore and grow from that feeling of being connected, being part of something bigger.

Helen Keller, the deaf-blind American writer born at the end of the 19th century is renowned for overcoming adversity and she knew a thing or two about teamwork.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” she said, and it’s a phrase to which I continue to come back, time and time again. Understanding the context of her words and the challenges she faced makes this quote particularly poignant, as she found herself isolated for so much of her early life.

The true value of teamwork was highlighted for me this weekend as I was privileged to be able to join the lacrosse team for their North Schools tournament to York. I have been able to watch a number of sporting fixtures at Queen’s since September but travelling with the team, watching the girls set up camp, seeing them warm up to their favourite tunes and then, despite a long day of hard-fought games, still manage to sing their way home on the two hour coach journey, created a significantly stronger sense of connection to the team.

It was made all the more special as our girls demonstrated all that is really great about teamwork; working together, supporting and encouraging each other, maintaining commitment and determination to the final whistle but at the same time maintaining perspective, being able to celebrate and admire excellence in other teams and showing respect to their opposition. As competitors they were fierce, but off the field, the girls were warm, polite, open and friendly to the other teams, a credit to the school and their families.

If a sense of belonging is the root structure that centres our children, an open heart and mind is what will enable them to grow.