The Need for Belonging, Significance & Fun — Spotlight on Cory Wade

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” — W.B. Yeats

Have you ever noticed that some people just have that extra special quality? It’s often hard to put your finger on it, but there’s something extraordinary about them. That is my friend Cory Wade. He was born to inspire and educate. To break down barriers and support children to soar to unimaginable heights. I know this firsthand from attending a Responsive Classroom training. Here are a few highlights from our conversation. Enjoy!

Cory Wade M.Ed is a certified Responsive Classroom teacher and consulting teacher for Center for Responsive Schools (CRS). He has a master’s degree in education, is pursuing his educational administration license, and has worked as an adjunct professor at North Central University in Minneapolis since 2012. As a teacher in Bloomington Public Schools in Minnesota for 13 years, Cory has experience teaching first, second, and third grade. Upon his first exposure to Responsive Classroom early in his career, Cory quickly developed a passion for the transformative mindset and practices surrounding the approach, and has since traveled nationally and internationally to train educators in adopting a similar focus that supports all students in learning. Cory has witnessed the positive impact the Responsive Classroom approach has had on his students, families, and co-workers through implementation of the core beliefs, principles, and practices. In 2019, Cory was a finalist for Minnesota teacher of the year.

Cory Wade

Teaching children: the necessary components

Cory’s philosophy about teaching is, not teaching curriculum, not teaching standards, and not teaching levels, you’re teaching children! Of course, we have to teach the standards, we have to teach the curriculum and all that stuff. But the very heart of all this is the child. This is what sets Cory a part. He sees students beyond a data level or a bass level. He looks at them and sees a child and it’s so hard to teach them just so superficially when you see that whole child, that whole heart and that whole child. When you see their family, culture, race, gender, all that stuff comes into play when it comes to that whole child. This is what really works well for him. Cory is very good at connecting with people of all ages. He is authentic and genuine and people feel safe and nurtured with him.

Belonging, significance and fun

When students are lacking one of these, belonging, significance, or fun, they oftentimes act out or misbehavior. Cory sees these three components as basic needs for children and adults. When we’re not feeling competent or we’re feeling insecure, when that lack of significance and belonging, and ultimately, fun is missing, everyone will act out, even adults. It’s important to check our message and make sure people feel valued.

What learning looks like in the midst of trauma and beyond

If we go back to school the same way as pre-pandemic, we have missed the point. So what needs to change? Our pedagogy needs to change, our mindset needs to change. We need to think differently about meeting the needs of students and teachers. For example, the topic of technology and navigating through how and when we use this tool. Is it developmentally appropriate for a kindergartener to be on a Chromebook that much? We need to consider the challenges of navigating through turning in homework, communicating with teachers and not having that social emotional touch or help or whatever students might need.

Cory’s call to action for educators. It is time to think outside the box, let’s not go back to the same. It’s hard right now, but persevere, and we’re gonna make it through it all together.

To hear the rest of the interview with Cory, join us for the second Learning For Life Virtual Summit, March 31st and April 1st. Please take a moment to click this link to sign up for your FREE ticket to the Learning For Life Summit. Can’t wait to see you there!

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Frederick Douglass

The joy is in the journey!

Blessings and Peace,


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