Belonging is a circle that embraces everything, but what does it mean to belong? What are the signs that help us to know that we belong somewhere or tell us clearly that we don’t belong? As a recently retired educationalist, I have been reflecting on the ‘me’ behind the mask of my chosen work life and the opportunities that stretch out in front of me for giving back to the communities in which I live. I am different. I know I am. I just don’t know if others will understand my need to follow my passion for making a difference now that I am not officially employed. I live in hope that I can use my life experiences to make a small positive contribution to the status quo that will enhance the lives of my grandchildren.
The school experience focuses on encouraging us to fit in. Students, new teachers, experienced teachers, administrative staff, support staff. We all have our place in the communication network that is education. I have always found this challenging. We slot together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but increasingly I am aware that there are those who seek positive change and it is people such as these that I gravitate towards because I feel a kindred spirit and a sense of ‘belonging’ rather than just fitting in. Some of these spirits are young students and I am encouraged by the thought that they will make a real difference to the future.
My current project, along with a colleague, is that of putting together a collection of stories written by gifted entrepreneurial students who have seen a community need and seized the opportunity to do something about it. We have chosen to focus on students rather than adults to showcase some of the ways in which gifted students have made a positive difference to the lives of others. Their stories are true. Their passions are evident and real. Opportunities abound and are just waiting to be recognised. So far we have several contributions in the pipeline but the book has some way to go and I would really appreciate some help in getting the word out to young people who may be interested in contributing. I believe that we can learn a lot from the group that makes us feel as though we really belong and contribute positively to our feeling on personal worth, and we learn from others. The book is a ‘give back’ to the N.Z. community in that ALL profits will be donated to the Starship Foundation with its focus on the welfare of children. Copyright for individual stories remains with the authors who will receive a free copy if selected for publication.
One of the disadvantages of getting older is that our links with the community gradually shrink. My network of like-minded people was never wide to begin with. The mask of an extrovert doesn’t fit comfortably for me. I am an introvert inside, sharing my passion with those who do not sit in judgment. Your help would be appreciated. If you know of a student who might be interested in participating and belonging to a group of like-minded individuals determined to make a positive difference, please pass on the message. A sense of belonging comes from being appreciated, understood and fitting in, but fitting in and belonging are not the same thing. Stories can be dictated to and written up by an adult if preferred. There are no word limits but work will be subject to editing if necessary. Our hope is for the work to be ready for publication later this year.
To find out more, contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org