The “Top 6 Goals” … seriously. I really tried to get to the Top 5. An old mentor of mine once told me, “Liza, when putting together lists, go with Top 3, Top 5 or Top 10.”
I agree, “five” just seems so much more tidy, doesn’t it?
But, here at Park School, there is so much positive energy around diversity, equity and inclusion that, truly, SIX (not five) big goals have been identified as we think about the impact of what our community can do.
The other day, a 4th grader stopped me in the hallway. And, in a very earnest tone asked, “Ms. Talusan, what do you do all day? I pretty much see you walking around school and talking to people. Is that what you do all day? Talk to people?”
I loved that observation.
“Well, yes. I guess I do talk to a lot of people. And, yes, I guess I do walk around the school a lot,” I replied. It was an honest answer.
It’s difficult to capture exactly what my day looks like. But, for the most part, I’m in meetings — meetings with administrators (both in groups and individually), departments, teachers, faculty, teams of faculty, and parents. Each day, at 11:30am, I get to hang out at a lunch table with students in Grades I – III and tell jokes, talk about their activities, and occasionally convince them to eat more vegetables. Sometimes, I’m in my office writing up all of the notes from those meetings or working on new ways to think about how we do things at Park School. Sometimes, I’m in my office preparing for a presentation or workshop that I might give with faculty and parents.
But, if I had to whittle down my day, I’m usually working on six (not five) things.
- Shared definitions. Much of what I did in the beginning of the year is to make clear what diversity, equity and inclusion are. For me, Diversity is the word when we are trying to describe all that we are — race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, family structure, ability, socioeconomic status, religion, body size or shape, health experiences, geography. Equity is making sure everyone can achieve and be the best they want to be by removing gaps or barriers. Inclusion is the ongoing engagement with diversity and equity and making sure all of those diversity items (and more) are in our curriculum, our teaching practices, our policies, our programs and our goals. Essentially “diversity is who we are; equity is what we strive for; and inclusion is how we get there.” This phrase is new to Park School, so I’m constantly repeating it everywhere I go.
- Diverse student community. Park School is a leader in student diversity of many types. Through intentional practices that honor the whole family and whole student, we have truly committed ourselves to upholding the importance of a diverse student community. We are never satisfied, of course, (no leader ever is!) and continue to support, encourage, retain and graduate students from all diverse backgrounds. So, much of my work here is making sure that our incredible professionals have the resources and support they need to keep being the leader. Here at Park, we are also focusing on how people from diverse backgrounds experience Park School — does everyone feel like Park is a community? Do all people feel like they belong at Park School? Do we all purposefully treat each other with respect, dignity, and shared humanity? What does it feel like to be “different” at Park School? These are questions we (and many organizations) grapple with, and I spend most of my day thinking about how people feel at Park.
- Diverse faculty and staff community. Park School’s faculty and staff community is a strong, talented, dedicated and driven group of individuals. Our community represents a very wide spectrum of identities and experiences. My goal is to continue to grow our faculty and staff diversity through intentional and thoughtful outreach, recruitment, support and retention practices. We’re looking at our hiring practices; our processes; how candidates learn about Park and what they understand about our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; and how we continue to shape learning opportunities around these issues.
- Responsive pedagogy. In partnership with our outstanding faculty, Park School already has a solid foundation in providing a responsive and culturally reflective curriculum. Our teachers demonstrate responsive pedagogy and are experienced in teaching a diverse range of students. In this area, I am thankful that our faculty are master teachers who are willing to open up their curriculum to make space for even more discussions about identities. In my work, we talk about how to best align curriculum that includes diversity of identities into their everyday discussions. This includes existing partnerships with the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in mapping out where we might be able to enhance diversity in the existing curriculum. Yes, this is where that 4th grader sees me running to different meetings!
- Forward Thinking Professional Development. Park School community has a supportive professional development program which faculty and staff use with great enthusiasm. In house, we have a long standing relationship with S.E.E.D. — a national dialogue group that explores issues of identity — and many of our faculty and staff have participated in this group. Looking ahead, I have been creating multiple opportunities for our faculty to gain further professional development around race and identities. So far, this has taken form in our divisional faculty meetings. Looking ahead, we are thinking about a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Institute this summer and workshops that push the conversations of identity to deeper levels. Yes, this is when I’m at my desk banging away at the keyboard!
- Engaging Families and Partners. Parent workshops, parent meetings, community outreach, conference presentations, trainings for other schools, attending development and fundraising events — those all fill in the rest of my day. I have had such a wonderful time working with our Parent Council and our Board of Trustees as we solidify diversity, equity and inclusion in our parent and family communities. So far, we’ve hosted two major parent events and had a total of 120 people attend! These get togethers have been a great way for parents and families to learn about each other as well as learn about what we are doing at Park School!
If you’ve seen me in person, you’ve heard me say this many times: I love my job. (I’ve even used an #ilovemyjob hastag on Twitter and Facebook). Here at Park School, we have done so many things right. And, I’m thankful to be here to continue to move us forward together… even if it means I have a Top 5 + 1.
Peace and Park,