May 16, 2020
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.
Medium > Message
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
Sense of belonging isn't just about being included. It's about being valued.
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) May 16, 2020
"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). #ecumsa
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) May 16, 2020
"Students here should be seen as people, not just pupils." And what if students were surveyed: "To which adults do you feel connected?" Simple strategies that reinforce a student's sense of belonging can boost individual achievement. I'm watching: https://t.co/sMnMegOEyV #ecumsa
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) February 25, 2020
Approaching 1,000 STEM Challenge responses, I've rediscovered the value of human connection. In @Flipgrid, students have their own individual space, while equally belonging to our @DDEDolphins school community. #ddestem #FlipgridForAll #SwimFwd #remotelearning #ecumsa https://t.co/Juy9VeImOn
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) April 28, 2020
"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." #FlipgridFever #GridPlans #HamstraHighlights: https://t.co/Xg0ibAN9fO pic.twitter.com/n0LHkz91pm
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) June 3, 2018
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) March 30, 2020
Phil's right, y'all. It's great to plan time together, as family, friends, and professional networks. And it's equally okay and healthy to disconnect, to unplug, and to plan time apart, too. #ASCDLounge #TeacherWellness #healthywake not-always-#AloneTogether https://t.co/m5uYK7FpGp
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) April 15, 2020
Anyone else have a hard time working from home? I'm super grateful to @LeannHamstra and our son Myals for intentionally designating space and time for #teleworking. Thank you! #ecumsa #wcpssteleworks #MyalsMoments pic.twitter.com/SPa8Vdl6Sc
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) March 19, 2020
"More than anything else, out-group members want to be heard. When out-group members think that the leader has heard them, they feel confirmed and more connected to the larger group. Clearly, listening should be a top priority of a leader (#PeterNorthouse, 2018, p. 224)." #ecumsa
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) November 12, 2018
It's important to ensure that all voices are heard. It's even more important to ensure that all voices feel heard.
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) July 23, 2020