Skip to content

Fostering Belonging in Schools: Introducing the HEARTWork Framework


In today’s diverse educational landscape, fostering a sense of belonging is paramount.

As educators, school leaders, and district administrators, we must create environments where everyone feels valued and seen. Recently, I had the pleasure of discussing these ideas on Allison Rodman’s platform, The Learning Loop. Our conversation centered on the HEARTWork Framework, a comprehensive approach designed to support schools, youth-serving out-of-school-time partners, and parent engagement and leadership agencies in cultivating belonging. You can watch our engaging discussion here.

What is the HEARTWork Framework?

CCM EdGroup HEART Framework 2024 (1)

The HEARTWork model was designed to emphasize humanity, environment, amplification, rituals, and togetherness in leadership. By integrating these elements, we can create brave spaces where students, staff, and community members can bring their full selves to the table.

H: Humanity

At the core of HEARTWork is the acknowledgment of each person's dignity and worth. It’s essential to recognize and honor the humanity in every space. This means seeing beyond obvious commonalities and valuing the unique contributions of each individual. By fostering an environment that respects and celebrates differences, we pave the way for genuine connections and understanding.

E: Environment of Inclusion

Creating an inclusive environment goes beyond surface-level changes. It involves ensuring that representation is visible and meaningful. From displaying flags of different nations to selecting diverse literature, every aspect of the school environment should reflect the cultures and backgrounds of its community. This also extends to the staff we hire and the vendors we partner with, ensuring that diversity is a cornerstone of our everyday operations.

A: Amplification of Voices

Belonging is amplified when everyone’s voice is heard. This means incorporating student, staff, parent, and community voices into decision-making processes. Social media, school meetings, and newsletters should reflect the diverse perspectives within the community. By doing so, we create a sense of ownership and investment in the school’s vision and strategy.

R: Rituals and Traditions

Rituals and traditions are powerful tools for building community. Starting the day with a shared moment, such as a pledge or affirmation, can set the tone for a brave space where everyone feels included. Recognizing that each person carries their own experiences and burdens, we can create rituals that acknowledge and honor these individual journeys while fostering collective growth and resilience.

T: Together in Leadership

Leadership should be a shared responsibility. Student councils, parent councils, and community advisory boards are crucial for inclusive decision-making. By involving a diverse group of stakeholders, we ensure that our strategies and initiatives are well-rounded and reflective of the community’s needs. This collaborative approach not only strengthens our leadership but also builds trust and commitment across the board.


The HEARTWork Framework is more than just a set of guidelines; it’s a call to action for all educators and leaders to foster environments where every individual feels they belong. By prioritizing humanity, creating inclusive environments, amplifying voices, establishing meaningful rituals, and leading together, we can cultivate schools that are not only places of learning but also of belonging and growth.

Key Takeaways

  1. Recognize Humanity: Value the dignity and worth of every individual.
  2. Inclusive Environment: Ensure visible and meaningful representation in all aspects of the school.
  3. Amplify Voices: Incorporate diverse perspectives in decision-making.
  4. Rituals and Traditions: Use shared moments to build community and brave spaces.
  5. Collaborative Leadership: Involve students, parents, and community members in leadership roles.

By integrating the HEARTWork Framework, we can create educational environments that not only educate but also inspire and affirm every member of the community. If you are interested in exploring the Heartwork Framework, in full, please leave a comment below or contact me via email.

#BelongingInSchools #HEARTWorkFramework #InclusiveEducation #EducationalLeadership #StudentVoice #CommunityEngagement #DiversityAndInclusion #SchoolCulture #BraveSpaces #ParentEngagement #YouthLeadership