How to Build Community Through Connection and Inclusion

Listen to the Talk and Guided Mindfulness Practice
Guided by Solissa McKay, faculty at Mindful Schools

Listen to “Building Community Through Connection and Inclusion” on Spreaker.

We can’t really begin to talk about building community with our students and peers without first acknowledging the unprecedented times we are living in. During these remarkable challenges and disruptions, you are still showing up. Doing what you can to be there for your students. That is truly special. Given everything going on around us, it’s more important than ever to take the time to build connection and community in our shared spaces so that we can help students feel safe, and deep and meaningful learning can occur.

So, what does it look like to build community, foster connection, and be inclusive in a way that models it for your students?

It’s a big question and I don’t want to overcomplicate it by throwing strategies at you, but instead I want to talk more intentionally about three simple things that come to mind when I think about this topic.

The first is…being open. Open your heart to your students and to yourself. Be deliberate to what you’re paying attention to. Savor in the small and big moments happening around you. Being open in a heartful way also allows us to appreciate all that is happening around us and allows us to build deeper connections. Being open can contribute to community building in an authentic and beautiful way.

Another thing that comes to mind is…being curious. Be truly curious about each student in your classroom. Take the time to learn more about their lived experiences so that you can meet them where they are. Encourage them to share their experiences with you and one another. Being curious also helps us get to know ourselves, as we explore what it looks and feels like to show up each day, more curious and open to every student and the communities around us.

And finally, because I truly believe it helps anchor it all…being present. By bringing present awareness to our body when in community with others, we can hold space for people, allowing them to feel safe, accepted, and heard. When we channel a more embodied presence, we really are building a community with and alongside our students.  Just think about how beautiful that would be and how good that would feel to offer that gift to our students and to ourselves each day.

When it comes to inclusion, I want to share the simple reminder that inclusion starts with us. Creating a supportive and safe environment that makes everyone feels seen and included starts with you showing up as your authentic self and doing the internal work to think about how you can actively foster inclusion. This includes being more mindful about the assumptions and biases you bring to table. Don’t shy away from those thoughts and feelings as they arise, because it’s a part of the natural human condition. We all have bias, and we all make assumptions. The game changer is how we notice and respond to them that then allows us to also actively shift our behavior.

Solissa is member of the Mindful Schools faculty. As a champion for education, Solissa has spent the last decade supporting and investing in the growth of adolescents and young professionals. She has been a 7th grade classroom teacher, a college academic advisor, and more recently, a program manager for a Kansas City area non-profit youth college access program.

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