Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

There’s no connection more personal, more meaningful, or more valuable than the face-to-face, human connection. It’s priceless. As social creatures, we’re wired to interact in communities. And this “sense of belonging” basic need is as evident and transparent in pandemic reality as ever.

I love going out for a cup of coffee with a friend. I love having breakfast with colleagues at local diners. I can’t wait to get together for chips and salsa to solve the world’s problems–again–one debate at a time. Apart from family time, there’s nothing better than diving deep with a brilliant think tank that genuinely cares about you and wants you to become better. To value and to be valued. To love and to be loved.

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Especially as an extrovert, I really miss being around people. I miss the handshakes, high-fives, and fist bumps. I miss the hugs. I miss eye contact, smiles, and laughs. I miss the kind of presence required in a genuine heart-to-heart, where texting others at the same time isn’t the norm.

And let’s face it… A video meeting is not a face-to-face meeting.

If nonverbals account for the majority of all communication, then we’re missing a lot of connecting opportunities when we communicate through screens.

Before we can start talking about how education is changing forever, we have to pause to realize what matters most. Yes, it’s people. Yes, it’s relationships. But if you zoom in for a closer look, it’s really our basic needs that have always existed. And one basic need we’re really missing is our face-to-face, human connection.

Yet, the need to belong is more than just being in the same physical space as others. It’s being in the same physical space with others.

Sense of belonging isn’t just about being included. It’s about being valued

For years, I thought networks were like a spider web, where individuals were linked to each other with numerous nodes and intersections. I thought that meaningful connections overlapped in ways where it was hard to see where one person stopped and another person started. I thought that networks were splatter-painted, works-of-art.

For years, I thought that networks looked and operated like a plate of spaghetti.

Lately, however, I’ve been rumbling with some new perspective.

Now, I think that networks look and operate like a waffle, too.

Waffling #AloneTogether

Three experiences have shaped my waffling network perspective. Let me know if they resonate and connect with you. I’d love your comments, thoughts, and feedback.

1–Google Meet Grid View

As remote learning unfolded, our district approved Google Meet as thee platform for video meetings with colleagues and kids. Newbies were excited to Google Meet for the first time. Yet, they were equally disappointed when they could only see about 3-5 other people at any given time. That is, until they discovered the Google Chrome Extension: Google Meet Grid View. Simply put, Grid View allows you to see everyone in the Google Meet-ing at the same time.

Meeting attendees can opt to turn their microphone and camera on/off. Literally, they can choose when to be seen and heard. The Google Meet Grid View looks like several, different, individual windows in one frame:

Davis Drive Elementary Staff Google Meet in Grid View


The beauty of Flipgrid lies both in its simplicity of video creation and navigation, as well as its power to amplify voice and meaningful discussion in one organized place.

While I could go on and on about how much I love all the Flipgrid features, the one thing I’ve always valued the most is its interface. Simple. Organized. Effective. People-First.

Those responding to Flipgrid prompts can opt to be in/out of their video/selfie submissions. Literally, they can choose what and how they want to share with the group. The Flipgrid interface looks like several, different, individual windows in one frame:

Edcamp Remote Learning (#EdcampRL) Introductions

3–Grad School Research

On May 8th, 2020, I graduated from East Carolina University with my Masters in School Administration (MSA). In our two-year, family commitment, I learned a lot about content, community, and life. Spending nights and weekends at coffee shops and restaurants, I invested with my whole heart.

In addition to the internship experience, one of my favorite parts of the journey was reading, writing, and researching. Our class discussions were meaningful, challenging, and deep.

While reading Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practices by Peter G. Northouse, I was especially fascinated by this quote:

“People have a need to be connected to others. They want to be in a group, but not so much a part of the group that they lose their own identity. They want to belong, but do not want to belong so much that they lose their sense of self” (#PeterNorthouse, 2018, p. 227).

This reading selection makes me think that our connections are more personal than scientific. How we connect, interact, and learn–it’s all about people. It sounds like several, different, individual spaces in one group. 

Applying Northouse Networking to Grid View and Flipgrid: 

  • Each individual space is a well-defined, independent, personal, safe space for each person to be… individual, recognized, and valued as a meaningful part of the whole.
  • Each space is the same size, implying that individuals equal each other in status, worth, and voice, and that the playing field is level, and planted with seeds of reciprocity, respect, and trust.
  • Individuals joined the group out of free will, albeit most likely by invitation.
  • Individuals choose when to be seen, heard, or both, if at all.

A Sense of Self AND A Sense of Belonging

If you think things like synergy, collective efficacy, and professional learning teams matter in education, then recognizing norms that help us connect, especially during abnormal times that may cause us to disconnect, matters big time.

Perhaps, it’s not the microscopic nuances of interlocking pieces in a puzzle.

It’s recognizing, celebrating, and valuing BOTH the piece AND the puzzle.

It’s having a healthy sense of self AND a healthy sense of belonging.

It’s seeing AND feeling seen.

It’s hearing AND feeling heard.

It’s valuing AND feeling valued.

It’s loving AND feeling loved.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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