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Supporting and cultivating an inclusive learning community at Seattle conferences

 

Post contributed by Dr. Rachel Jean-Baptiste, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

How does King School endeavor to deepen what it means to be an inclusive learning community, meaning that there is a culture of respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members in order to allow each person to achieve self-realization and self-actualization? One important way we show our commitment to cultivating an inclusive learning community is by supporting our staffulty at the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) and our students at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) which took place in mid-December 2019 in Seattle, Washington. In total, about 7,000 independent school students and educators - including teachers, staff, trustees, and heads of school - from around the country attended the two parallel conferences.
 
The National Association of Independent Schools describes the PoCC as "the flagship of the National Association of Independent Schools' commitment to equity and justice in teaching, learning, and organizational development. The mission of the conference is to provide a safe space for leadership and professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools," providing attendees with "knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in their schools, as well as the attending academic, social-emotional, and workplace performance outcomes for students and adults alike."

While the adults engage at the PoCC, students concurrently attend SDLC, which "focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community. Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participating students develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles," according to the SDLC website.
 
Continuing our tradition of participation in these vital conferences, a group of six Upper School students and nine staffulty, including Head of School Karen Eshoo, from multiple divisions and disciplines traveled together for and experienced an insightful and transformative experience. As student Hannah Greene '21 enthused, "What was so compelling about this conference was meeting people from all around the country living totally different lives and yet are able to connect and find such close similarities between one another."

At PoCC, adults had the opportunity to choose from 150+ workshop opportunities to learn new ideas and gain new professional tools, as well as meetings with self-identified affinity groups and keynote addresses from renowned scholars and thought leaders. The conference offered safe spaces to talk about diversity and inclusion with an incredible range of educators and leaders. Our King participants networked with students and adults from other schools, and we have built strong bonds with each other along the way. Now that we have returned to King, student attendees such as Marina Malin '21 endeavor to, "implement the same sense of vulnerability and comfort in creating a sense of family and sharing deepest thoughts in friendships and community at King."
 
Stafulty and students alike who attended found the conference inspiring in so many ways.  They shared their personal reflections on how to bring back what they learned to deepen the meaning and experience of what it means to be an inclusive school community at King:
 
"SDLC was amazing because of the interactions I had with my "family group" of students from all around the country.  We were able to learn how each and everyone one of us has different life experiences yet we can all relate to each other in one way or another and that was very compelling." – Julian Gonazelez '21


"SDLC was an amazing experience for me because I met and was surrounded by people who I felt truly understood who I was, I was in a strong supportive community.  It put me in a growth mindset in which I was able to engage some of the topics surrounding the role that race and ethnicity play in this country. I'm taking the initiative to carry back what I've been gifted with over the course of the conference.  I want to share my newfound insights with fellow students who haven't shared the same experience, to bring new perspectives to King School." – William Bernfeld '22


"This opportunity of going to PoCC opened my eyes to many ways of looking at history, life, etc. beyond what society has been teaching us. However, most importantly to me, it strengthened my belief in helping foster mindfulness, self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-love in our students and community as a whole. When one is able to be present with all of ourselves, without reacting, we can then hold space and foster mindfulness, awareness, acceptance and love for others and for all of life around us. An increased level of calm and inner wholeness can build a stronger, safer, happier and more risk-taking community. By strengthening our students' ability to become centered in themselves, feel their inner emotions, fears, worries, and learn not to react to them, but instead to be present with them and accept them, our students can then better open their eyes and hearts to others and become more inclusive of all." - Elizabeth Couch, Mathematics Faculty and Team Leader Grade 6
 
"I have never actually seen that many educators of color in one place before! As the only African-American teacher in the Upper School at King, I have grown accustomed to my one-ness. I live and work on a border. The experience made me more determined to seek excellence in what I do. I also came back renewed to continue to deepen my own practice of inclusive language and teaching practices. I want to apply what I have learned and I want to improve in ways that are authentic to me AND my students." – Adam Boaz, English Faculty and Grade 11 Dean
 
"As a person who works in IT at a school, I gained knowledge about my role in helping to facilitate learning about multicultural topics in science and technology. I attended a workshop on Anti-Racist STEM Education in which it was discussed how students are often taught that science is objective and separate from social influence, but as we all know that's totally not true. I also attended a discussion of how algorithms can easily exacerbate existing biases, which perhaps can enhance programming and math classes for students who want to work in fields of technology. I was able to network with teachers from around the country and we are planning on working together to submit a workshop presentation for next year's conference." – Selina Policar, Help Desk Analyst

Learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion at King here.