The work has begun. I am not talking about lesson plans by our teachers or the homework assignments of our girls, but rather the work of exploring how community, equity and inclusion have a role in the Lower School experience of our girls and youngest students. As defined in our recent re-brand, one of the core values here at Roland Park Country School is to seek and embrace diversity. We know that a diverse student body results in better experiences for everyone and enriches our community in many ways. The responsibility to seek and embrace diversity extends far beyond the admissions team. Our educators and staff members also have a responsibility to ensure that our students feel included and supported throughout their school experience. How will we know that they are supported and included?, What does that really look like for our students of color?…..are questions we grapple with and need to explore.
In the Lower School, we feel so fortunate this year to have the guidance and expertise of Akailah McIntyre, our new Director of Diversity. I had the privilege of spending many hours with Akailah over the summer mapping out a series of professional development sessions for our faculty. Over seven afternoons during the school year, we hope to engage teachers in meaningful conversations around identity, implicit bias, hidden microaggressions, and ways to address difficult topics in the classroom.
The work has begun. Last Thursday, we gathered together as a faculty and reflected on words of historical figures about inclusion, responded to feelings of emotion and anxiety within the community, and committed to remaining open to new insights and a deeper understanding of these complex issues. The session included a reading of what the meaning of “microaggressions” is in reality. We grappled with our own misconceptions and society’s misunderstandings of the term. To conclude, our faculty watched a TED talk about “The Danger of a Single Story”, which I have linked below. It is such a moving piece about how often our default is to judge another’s “story” based on stereotypes or our own implicit bias. Our future conversations will build on these activities. We hope to create for our students, and each other, many safe spaces to explore the diverse experiences within our community and eventually build an understanding that empowers us to change the narrative outside the walls of RPCS.
Big goals. The work has just begun.
If you would like to read more about teaching social justice to young children to share with your children at home, below is an article you might find interesting.
I hope that my communication with you encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your children. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.
- What was the message from this week’s Morning Meeting with Mrs. Teeling? What do you notice about the changing seasons when you step outside? What does it mean to be a hostess? Why do visitors like to come to RPCS and learn more about what you are doing in your classes?
- If you are in Kindergarten- What math games did you play with Ms. Goss this week when she visited your classroom?
- If you are in First or Second Grade- What was your favorite part of the Harvest Feast?
- If you are in Third Grade- What was it like working with the upper school on your lines for the Reader’s Theater play of “One Hundred Dresses”?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- How did you generate ideas for your “I AM” poem? What pictures did you choose to illustrate your passions? What was it like to present to the grade and Ms. Blatti?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- What ideas did your group come up with for a “perfect playground” and why? How will you construct your prototype?