Cultivating a Sense of Belonging

by Assistant Head of School for Academics David Long and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Karen Bradberry

As part of Galloway's strategic plan, we are striving to cultivate a strong sense of belonging for our entire community - our students, families, faculty, and staff. As relatively new members of the community ourselves, we have challenged ourselves and our colleagues to define belonging vs. community. 

For us, belonging is tied to our mission, which explicitly states that individuals are valued at Galloway. Our hope is that each individual person at Galloway can bring their full authentic selves to school each day. This year, we have focused our efforts on developing this sense of belonging. 

Since the start of the school year, examples of this work include:

  • We renamed PrePlanning “Restart”. At the start of August, Head of School Dr. James Calleroz White shared with the faculty and staff that our theme this year is relationships before tasks. Due to the pandemic, we spent nearly all of last year focusing our energies on tasks and wanted to bring us back to what makes Galloway special: our community. We plan to continue this theme throughout the school year. 

  • Faculty and Staff spent the first day of Restart at Camp Twin Lakes. While there we took part in team-building activities (including the giant swing pictured below) and spent time focused on being together again as a community. 

  • We were recently awarded a grant from the Goizueta Foundation that will allow us to provide SEL training for faculty and students in the next three years. 

  • In Early Learning, the faculty are implementing Character Strong in their classrooms to provide social-emotional learning and to develop character. Using team-building and discussion our Early Learning students learn about character traits such as cooperation! 

  • In Middle and Upper Learning, we adopted a curriculum by the Core Project that provides an advisory curriculum for our ML and UL advisors. All UL and ML advisors were trained in August and they are using a curriculum that intentionally focuses on building community and social-emotional learning. 

  • In Upper Learning, our 9th grade students took part in a 9th grade retreat. It was a day of team building and fun along with the chance to ride big wheels

  • We implemented a new block schedule for Middle and Upper Learning that has dedicated time set aside for advisory. The schedule also moved from 7 periods to 4 periods a day to reduce student and faculty stress and allow for deeper learning to take place. In addition, we created longer breaks to allow for community time and collaboration.

  • We are also in the second year of our curriculum mapping initiative that is tied to the strategic plan. The mapping initiative will help us to better meet the needs of our students and ensure that they are represented in our curriculum. 

We understand that belonging does not happen overnight and that it only comes with intentional actions over time. We also recognize that the initiatives outlined above are a good start, but that we have much more work to do. That said, we are willing and excited to do the work because we know that it leads to a vibrant, welcoming, and inclusive learning community!