In an article for the Autumn/Winter edition of the Fintona File, Acting Principal Ruth McKinnon writes about the sense of belonging experienced at Fintona and its impact on all facets of learning.
The Fintona family or Fintona community is a common topic of conversation amongst Old Fintonians. Being part of such a group creates a sense of belonging that begins at the point of enrolment and extends beyond the years at school.
A sense of belonging has well documented benefits including better physical and mental health, improved academic achievement, occupational and career success, and more positive social relationships.
In a recent review of the academic research on belonging, by Kelly-Ann Allen and her colleagues (1), it is suggested that multiple processes must converge for a stable sense of belonging to emerge and support wellbeing and other positive outcomes. They use the example of a successful singer who has the motivation to sing, and the skills and ability needed to sing well in addition to confidence, opportunities to sing, and support by others. It is these elements and processes that are provided and encouraged at Fintona that lead to a strong, steady sense of belonging.
At Fintona, students are given opportunities to belong every day. Within an average week, a Year 8 girl will participate in a Senior Campus assembly, a smaller Tutor Group within her year level, a House meeting with students from all year levels and a Middle School assembly with students from Year 5 to Year 8.
In classrooms, students develop the competencies of belonging, such as verbal and non-verbal communication, active listening and being aware of oneself and others. These skills are taught and learned through strategies such as group work, role play and whole-class discussions.
The many co-curricular opportunities available to our students allow them to find a pursuit or passion such as gardening, cooking, debating or choir, that they can share with like-minded individuals and thus belong to smaller interest driven groups or clubs.
Spaces that enable belonging to occur are important at Fintona. The Tourmont Courtyard is a well-used meeting and event space connected to the long history of the School. The beautiful light-filled library and the shared spaces in the Annie Hughston Centre serve as popular gathering spots. The Year 11 and 12 Common Rooms are also places where many experiences are shared and remembered.
Shared events develop a sense of belonging to something bigger than the individual. Shakespeare Day has been an annual event at Fintona for more than 84 years. The annual induction of Senators as Senior leaders in the School is an ongoing tradition. Other events such as House competitions, Cabaret Night, the School Play and the Music Concert give students the opportunity to perform, collaborate and support others.
Fintona develops a sense of belonging by providing multiple opportunities to join in and be part of shared events. Interaction with others is encouraged from both within and outside year levels. Connection to the physical spaces of the School and the shared individual and collective experiences make belonging to the Fintona community a true gift.
Acting Principal and Head of Learning, Teaching and Development
1. Kelly-Ann Allen, Margaret L. Kern, Christopher S. Rozek, Dennis M.McInerney & George M. Slavich (2021) Belonging: a review of conceptual issues, an integrative framework, and directions for future research, Australian Journal of Psychology, 73:1, 87-102.