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At Park School, we commit ourselves to thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion each day. Our teachers include texts, discussions, morning conversations and writing exercises about identity and diversity.

But, during Social Justice Week at Park School, we challenged our community to think beyond diversity. We asked our community to think deeply about social Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 8.41.47 AMjustice and to actually DO something to make things better.

In our morning presentations at Park, I have shared that diversity is who we are. We are a community representing a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, socioeconomic status, family structure and configuration, and more. But, if diversity is who we are, then social justice is what we do so that all of these diverse identities and experiences have access to success, opportunities and belonging at Park School. Social justice calls us to action. Social justice requires that we change our structures and practices.

I have often heard that “children are too young to think about social justice.” That belief certainly is not the case at Park School. Here, we engage in conversations as early as Pre-K (4-year olds) about what we can all do to shape a better community. As a school, each grade level team was asked to think about what they could do to commit to social justice. Here are a few examples of our questions:

  • What is one thing you can do to make Park School more accessible?
  • What is one thing you can do to make our relationship better at Park School?
  • What is one thing you can do to make someone smile at Park School?
  • What is one thing you can do to make our Park School community better?
  • What is one thing you can do to make things more equitable?

During social justice week, our Middle (grades 3-5) and Lower Divisions (grades PreK-2) came together to show us what they had discovered about our communities and presented solutions to make Park School better. These action based items ranged from exploring a more accessible playground, giving thanks to the dedicated and caring staff who provide healthy meals for us in the dining room, and standing up for people’s rights.

During the week, we were incredibly fortunate to have a visit from artist Bren Bataclan, who has spent the last 13 years leaving free paintings all around the world12795556_1285567931460170_1970979692824729262_n with the payment of “You can keep this painting as long as you do something to make someone smile today.” Our Grade I students (who then inspired so many people around the school!) created drawings and left these around Park for others to find.

But, how is making one person smile social justice? How does leaving a painting or drawing shape structures that allow for access and equity? Great question (I’m assuming you might be thinking this). Making one person smile is about connection. It is about giving others the opportunity to see that the world is bigger than just us, as individuals. It’s about inspiring others to seek out the humanity within another person. It’s about extending that humanity to our world. I have long believed that in order for us to believe in social justice’s action, we must first believe that there is worth in that action. We must first see that connection is a source of action. Does making someone smile fix structural inequity? Maybe not right away. But, I have been around long enough to see the power of connection and the results that come from someone seeing beyond themselves.

How might you inspire others to #DoOneThing? Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 8.42.11 AM

We ended our Upper Division meeting by showing this great video about taking 30 days to do something different. My challenge to our community is to take the next 30 days and focus on social justice. Make it a habit. Make it a commitment. It will be difficult, if it’s new to you. But, let’s try, as a community, to take these next 30 days to #MakeThingsBetter.

Peace and Park,

Ms. Talusan