At the beginning of each school year I brainstorm with my Administrative Leadership Team to identify a central theme that we will use to guide us in our work during the coming year.
This year, we have chosen the theme of equity and inclusivity.
The roots for focusing on equity and inclusivity are found in our school’s mission. It compels us to nurture a safe and welcoming environment in which we develop our students’ character and inspire them to become responsible, globally aware citizens. In some ways we are already an inclusive school. Our families come to us from around the country and the world, and they bring a wide variety of life experiences to our campus and our classrooms. Our ACIS survey data reveal that we are more ethnically diverse than the surrounding Boulder community (81% of BCD families identify themselves as Caucasian compared with 88% of the people in Boulder). By nature, our students learn differently, and, as learning is asynchronous – it doesn’t happen in a straight line continuum – they have natural developmental differences that enrich class discussions, group work, subject area studies, and grade level projects. This adds to our diversity and, taken together, these differences make us more effective learners, more productive problem solvers, and more inventive creators. We think differently, and research tells us that groups with different kinds of thinkers think better.
Using the example of a baseball team, we don’t want nine shortstops. To be sure, the shortstop is a key player. Roaming the left side of the infield, she has to be quick on her feet, possess above average range, and own a strong arm. Yet, most shortstops do not hit for power. In the infield, that’s the third or first-baseman’s role. Each of these positions has its own individual demands, and some players are more suited for one than another. My point is, diverse communities and teams tend to be stronger, more successful, and more complete. And, if we want to continue to excel as a school we have to ensure we make room for all kinds of folks with different perspectives, backgrounds, and life experiences.
Before the start of school, the members of our faculty and staff participated in a day-long workshop to explore deeper issues of equity and inclusivity. To prepare for our workshop, we read two articles, which helped shape our discussions. Scott Page wrote the first article, “Diversity without Silos: The Confluence of the Social and Scientific Teaching of Diversity,” and published it in the Summer 2014 issue of Independent School Magazine. He reflects on our students’ experiences with diversity and recognizes that work is “more and more something that is not done alone.” The article provides a rationale for nurturing diverse communities, arguing that diversity “improves system robustness” and “speeds adaptation.”
Beverly Daniel Tatum wrote the second article, titled “The Complexity of Identity: Who Am I?” Tatum’s piece supports our work in discovering not only who we are, but also what preconceived notions, stereotypes, privilege, and other contexts we bring to our community. If we accept the idea that collaboration is the key to future success and if we believe that diverse groups create better solutions and better communities than groups that are homogenous, then I believe we have to do the sometimes difficult and exhausting work of determining our own identity, exploring our own story.
Our work to understand the concepts of equity and inclusivity has no end point – it’s more of a continuum of understanding. We will continue to explore these concepts during the school year, meeting with our facilitators twice more for hour-long faculty meetings in the fall and once for a half-day workshop in January. This journey is challenging, and it requires a great deal of trust to be successful; however, our commitment is steadfast, and the experiences I shared with my colleagues during opening faculty meetings are among the most meaningful I have had in my career. Most importantly, I am confident that the foundation we have built will improve teaching and learning at our school and help us live into the essential mission that guides our work.