My daughter started grade nine twice, at two different schools.
Her first time at school number two she only attended for half a day, but immediately noticed the strong sense of community and, get this, already felt like she was becoming part of it.
Her first day of grade nine at school number one didn’t meet with such rave reviews. In fact, she shared that there, she felt invisible.
I could not wait to hear more about this new magical place, this school number two.
Questions spilled out of me.
“Was there a spirit day?”
“A school assembly?”
“Did someone bring donuts?”
When she finally had a chance to reply, the magic was revealed.
“People smiled at me.”
“They said hi.”
“The teachers and other students knew my name.”
Hmm, that was no voodoo.
That magic was pure and simple.
I became spellbound watching my daughter transform from a reluctant grade nine student to one eager to attend high school number two. As much as her legs were physically carrying her there each morning, her brain had just as much to do with getting her out the door.
Just like our bodies need fruits and vegetables, proteins, and grains, our minds need a daily serving of connection. Dr. Dan Siegel, a psychologist, professor, and author shows this best with his healthy mind platter. Connecting with others is one of the seven daily requirements of a healthy brain.
Siegel defines connecting time as time spent connecting with nature and other people, ideally in person.
These connections can be made in many ways. As my daughter’s story proves, some can be very simple.
Smile at others.
Address people by name.
Encourage children and youth to do the same.
A chain reaction will almost certainly follow.
After all, smiles are more contagious than the flu.
And although not everyone will say ‘hello’, almost everyone will say ‘hello’ back.
Beth Elliott is a mother, children’s writer, and SEL supporter living in Ottawa, Ontario