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Committee Meeting: December 15

The Faculty and Staff Diversity Committee is comprised of Park School faculty and staff who are committed to learning and action related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Committee work is not mandatory at Park School, and therefore individuals actively choose to participate in this committee.

Agenda and Summary:

stock-vector--calendar-design-set-of-four-months-september-october-november-december-109352300The First 90 Days: What’s up with DEI at Park?: Liza gave a quick review of the types of activities, discussions, events, programs, workshops, outreach and meetings that have gone on in the past 90 days. These also include exploring opportunities for faculty and staff recruitment and retention and working on improving these processes; supporting families from underrepresented backgrounds; working closely with our Parent Association Diversity Committee, our DEI Committee of the Board of Trustees, and Diversity Directors in our area; and beginning conversations about equity and access to Park activities.

Brief presentation on the People of Color Conference and AISNE Diversity Conference big “takeaways”: Mulian Chen, Shalini Rao, and Carly Ellis shared their action items they developed from their time at PoCC. For Ms. Rao, takeaways included exploring bringing a Spoken Word poetry group to perform and also work closely with our student on identity based poetry. Check out this link to Sarah Kay – the spoken word poet who, as Ms. Rao would say, “totally made me cry with pride.” For Ms. Chen, post-PoCC, she wants to engage more fully with Asian American identity by including work in her classes and also professionally/personally engaging in more workshops about Asian American identity. For Ms. Ellis, she developed classroom tools that she has shared with the 2nd grade team about how to integrate identity and race more fully into her classroom. Post-PoCC, Ms. Ellis is really leaning into tough conversations about identity — conversations that she knows the children are ready for, but as adults, sometimes we get in our own way of having them.

Sarah Hyslop attended the AISNE Diversity Conference, as the only Park School representative, and shared that she learned many action-based items in her 1-day workshop. One of these items included asking thoughtful questions about the environments we create here at Park School. She provided these questions and is encouraging faculty and staff to read them while thinking about their classroom/offices (NOTE: the link is available only to Park School network).

AIM survey and community wide participation: Liza gave a brief update on the AIM survey which is administered through the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The survey is designed for students ages 9+ along with faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and board of trustees. This survey will be administered in late February to our students ages 9+ and the link will be available for 2 weeks for all other interest groups to complete. In addition to the survey, there will also be many opportunities to engage in focus group around topics such as governance, teaching, curriculum, parent involvement, policy and administration, publications and communication. These focus groups will occur after Spring Break and will go through the end of April. Formal reports, thematic coding, data analysis and qualitative analysis will take place throughout the summer, and all findings will be reported to our community in August 2016.

Social Justice Assembly Planning: With only a few minutes left, the committee members were asked to share their thoughts about learning outcomes for the Social Justice Assemblies occurring in February 2016. All three divisions will have the opportunity to engage in these social justice assemblies. The questions the committee considered included:

a) What do you want your students to know about social justice?

b) What do you want your students to experience at that assembly?

c) What do you want your students to think deeply about after the assembly is over?

d) What do you want to do during the assembly?

Some key comments included making sure that our students saw how other children engaged in these issues — that we make it very relevant to them and their peers. Other comments included making sure we are thoughtful about our continuity of learning – that this is not a “one time” conversation about social justice but that we have thoughtful plans for talking about justice issues all year.

We ended 10 minutes late…. Thank you for a great discussion!

Peace and Park,

Ms. Talusan

Conversation Circle: A Fine Dessert

The Conversation Circle Series is an opportunity for Park School faculty and staff to come together and discuss a current event related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These topics tend to be the ones that are “trending” on social media or in the news, and these conversation circles allow us some time and space to talk about these issues face to face.
Born out of the frustration that there simply is not enough time in the day to talk about important and relevant current events, this group gathers from 2:05pm-2:25pm (the time between dismissal and the start of faculty meetings) on Tuesdays in rotating rooms. It’s amazing what you can discuss in 20 minutes!

I have to admit, when Mr. Porter said he wanted to talk about a fine dessert, I thoA-Fine-Dessert-Cover-300x232ught he was inviting me for tiramisu or flan. Alas, no. He, as our talented and brilliant library faculty member, was talking about the NY Times Book A Fine Dessert. You see my dilemma here, right?

On Tuesday, December 15, a dozen faculty and staff at Park School discussed the children’s book A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall. This is the story of dessert — Blackberry Fool, to be exact — as seen through the lives of families living in different times and different locations.

The controversy with this book is within the first few pages. Part of the story takes place in the south during a time when Black slaves cooked the meals of White families. You can read a fuller description here of an NPR critique of the book as a “whitewashing” of slavery.

Our faculty brought up so many great points in the discussion: context and age of those reading it; how adults process the book with children; opportunities to provide discussion questions; implicit vs explicit messaging; and even how older students might read the book and critique it from an illustrative perspective and a social issues perspective.

If you are interested in reading the book and engaging in a critical race discussion, here are some helpful guided questions you might ask/answer:

  1. What do you notice are some similarities of the people on this page? What do you notice are some differences?
  2. (for older students): Let’s just look at the pictures. What story does this tell? What do you think the characters are saying or conveying in these illustrations?
  3. (for older students): Let’s just look at the text. What picture does this create for you? If you were to illustrate this story, how might you tell the story?
  4. Why do you think the two young Black girls are hiding in the closet while eating the dessert? How might you do this differently if this were your house?
  5. What are meals like at your home? Are there times when everyone sits down to eat together? Are there times when someone does not join you?
  6. What do you wish would happen differently in this book?
  7. Do you think this story would have been told differently if the authors were people of color (they identify as White women)? If so, what would have been different?
  8. Would this story have been different if it were told through the voice/eyes of a Freed slave?

Thank you to Mr. Porter, Ms. Black and Ms. Lane for hosting our Conversation Circle today!

Peace and Park,

Ms. Talusan

 

 

Meet People: Mrs. Penna

Every so often,  I travel up one flight of stairs to see my friend, Mrs. Penna.

Mrs. Penna and I have a lot in common.

  1. We are both teachers and educators at The Park School.
  2. We both have three children.
  3. We both are on the Administrative Team.
  4. We both love Peppermint Patties and eat them almost every day.
  5. We both have a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Over the past few months, Mrs. Penna and I have had so many conversations about diversity, race, family, friends, faith and religion, and yes, even Peppermint Patties.

The other day, I was in her office talking, again, about issues of diversity. It was at that moment, despite the fact that I have spent dozens of hours in there, that I finally noticed this.

There was nothing in Mrs. Penna’s office that signaled her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

So what, Ms. Talusan, you might be thinking. You know she is committed. Why does it matter that she signals that to you?

Well, here’s why.

See, I have had the opportunity to get to know Mrs. Penna. We have talked about our lives, our interests, our challenges, and our thoughts and beliefs. I have spent time with her. I have met her family (well, most of them). And she, in turn, has met mine.

But, how would you ever know that Mrs. Penna has any commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion? If you walked past her office, would you know she is someone you could talk to about issues of race, faith, family, gender, sexual orientation, or ability?

The answer is: You wouldn’t.

It was one of those, “Oh my goodness” moments. So, how did we fix that?

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.41.59 PMWe had a conversation about what she wants to signal.

“I want to signal that I am an ally to people who identify as LGBTQ. I want to signal that I am an ally to people of color. I want to signal that I want to have conversations about faculty coaching and teaching AND issues of identity.”

Cool. So, we did just that.

And now? Mrs. Penna’s office clearly signals her commitment to these issues to anyone just walking by her office.

Have you looked around your classroom or office lately? If a stranger walked in, would they know if you are committed to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion? 

Peace and Park,

Ms. Talusan

Addressing Current Events

At Park School, we realize the education is about what we say, what we teach and what we demonstrate. And, education is also about what we fail to discuss, what we fail to show, and what we fail to share.

Our nation, currently, is undergoing such turmoil. While this is not unlike what we have seen in our nation’s past, we bear witness to our current conditions, especially, of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments.

A number of my colleagues, parents and friends have approached me to ask how to support our students, families, and coworkers who identify as Muslim. Especially during this conflicting time of both peace and of fear, many allies are seeking proactive ways to honor the humanity and dignity of others. This is not a political statement, rather a way for us to consider, as a Park School community of teachers and learners, how to best honor and role model the humanity and dignity of others.

I recently came across a post from a Muslim woman who wrote simply and eloquently about how to be an ally. Her name is Sofia Ali-Khan and she has provided a number of helpful suggestions in this link here.

I’m also often asked how to talk about what’s going on in our country with our youngest scholars — our elementary school children who may or may not even know what is happening in our country.

First, know that our children hear you. Even if you are whispering, talking after they have long gone to bed, or turn up the radio in the car ride home while on the phone or talking to an adult passenger, they hear you. 

Second, our young scholars see you. They see if you have crossed the street when you see a person in hijab or niquab coming towards you. They see you avoid eye contact — or, stare intently — at a person with dark skin. They see you smile at a family and say “Good morning” as you walk into school. Our youngest scholars, they see you.

Third, our young scholars want to learn from you. They want to read books with you, see beautiful images of people, and hear about children from other faiths, practices, cultures, countries, and towns. Our incredible library faculty have put together a display of books that include and address issues of Islam and Middle Eastern communities. Our young scholars, they want to learn with you.

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Today in kindergarten, Ms. Dunn Rossi chose a book for read aloud called Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns which has beautifully rich colors that her young scholars could identify. The book also highlights images that are found in Muslim communities. The children were able to learn about women in hijab, men in kufi, and families in prayer. And, they were able to connect the colors that they use every day in her class.

Thank you for asking how to be better allies and for engaging in respect and kindness for all.

Peace and Park,

Ms. Talusan

Conversation Circle: In Our Own Backyard

The Conversation Circle Series is an opportunity for Park School faculty and staff to come together and discuss a current event related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These topics tend to be the ones that are “trending” on social media or in the news, and these conversation circles allow us some time and space to talk about these issues face to face.
Born out of the frustration that there simply is not enough time in the day to talk about important and relevant current events, this group gathers from 2:05pm-2:25pm (the time between dismissal and the start of faculty meetings) on Tuesdays in rotating rooms. It’s amazing what you can discuss in 20 minutes!

Last week, Steve Locke, a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Mass Art), was stopped in Jamaica Plain by police who believed 5255-500hhe fit the description of a man who had allegedly attempted to break into a home. Professor Locke posted a blog shortly after in an effort to raise awareness of his experience and to give public voice to an ongoing issue in our Black and Brown communities. Both moving, difficult, and insightful, Professor Locke’s experience sparked nationwide discussion. However, so close to home here at Park School, our faculty came together to discuss what happens in our own backyard.

For the past three weeks, I have been listening to the audio book, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. While I love the feel of a hardcover book in my hands, the act of creasing the top corner of a page to mark my place, and the contrast of my blue scribbled notes against the crisp, white pages, it was important for me to hear the voice of Mr. Coates as he read this penned letter to his son. As a parent, I felt the anger, pain, and fear as he both educates, and warns, his son of a world that has racialized him. As a person who is not Black, I will never understand the daily anger, pain and fear that is unique to his community, one that has been racialized as dangerous, criminal, and to be feared. Though my own people, Asian Americans, have experienced racialization in different ways in this country, I will never know the feeling of wondering if my light-skinned, multiracial children will come home or have to build a distrust in the powers that were supposedly built to protect them. Though my children are also from Latino and African heritage, their racialized identities are different from those who experience our world with their Black identities at the forefront.

Our caring, socially just, and mindful community at Park has been talking about what has been happening across the country — Staten Island, Ferguson, Chicago, Baltimore, University of Missouri, and more. And, yet, when I posted this article, I received responses from faculty and staff like, “I live on that street” or “I know exactly where this is” or “I can trace his exact footsteps in this article” or “I go to that burrito place all the time.” Of course, this is not the first time someone who identifies as Black has been stopped, harassed, misidentified, or humiliated in our communities. And, yet the proximity of his location, his identity as an educator, his hometown of Dedham, his uneventful routine of getting something to eat, and the location of his parked car became something we understood. We could see him. We could see ourselves on those streets. We could see ourselves with him. But, for few of us at Park School, we could see him as our son. Our godchild. Our family member. Our blood relative.

What angers some teachers is that we realize that education does not always protect us. In this conversation circle, we thought about the protected community of Park School — that our children, especially our children of color, are loved and honored here. And, yet, what happens when they get on the train (“the T”) to go home? Do strangers see them for the strong scholars who attend an elite private school? Do strangers see our brilliant Black and Brown students as future doctors, lawyers, educators, change agents, CEOs, artists, and community leaders? Do strangers know that our Black and Brown students are shaping lives of hope, of peace, and of love?

Mrs. Penna, the facilitator of our conversation circle asked, “What should I have done if I was there? What could I have done if I walked on that street that day?”

My response? Stand witness. Bear witness. Communicate that you are standing on the side of fair treatment, of respect, and of dignity. Re-read Professor Locke’s words — what did he notice about the woman who spoke to the police? How did her words signal that he deserved to be stopped? What did he notice about the woman in the red coat? What did she do when it was happening? What did she do when it was over? What was he expected to do after he left?

Social research has affirmed that our beliefs are made visible through our actions. In this scenario, do you believe that a Black man could be innocent? Do you believe that a Black man should be treated with respect, dignity, and humanity regardless of innocence or guilt? If so, your beliefs will be made visible through your actions.

And, that’s how we make the difference.

Peace and Park,

Ms. Talusan