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Conversation Circle: What does protest look like?

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!

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For many of our families, winter break was a chance to get away from the regular routine of school, to spend time together, and to possibly seek out new adventures. Those were all certainly true for my family. I’m happy to say I actually saw two movies at the theater, wrote the final chapters of my dissertation, and enjoyed watching my family from California revel in both the 68 degree Christmas weather and the 25 degree slushy snow that followed.

While my professional career has focused on examining issues of race, equity, and inclusion, it is impossible for me to simply put those three areas of my life on hold when school/work are not in session. During our break, the grand jury decision to not indict the officers in the killing of a young 12-year old boy named Tamir Rice was heartbreaking. In this focused time of caring, forgiveness and peace, I was angry, sad, and frustrated. How could this be? How could this young boy, who looks similar to some of the young people I work with each day, be mistaken for an adult? How could his life be taken so quickly?

Both personally and professionally, I have followed the many protests emerging around our shared country: Black Lives Matter, #Mizzou, Women’s Rights, Marriage Equality. And, it has not gone unnoticed that the responses to these protests have largely been impacted by race and gender.

Jorge Vega, Park’s Director of Technology, had been engaging on social media about the happenings in Oregon. Even now, I’m not sure what to call it — domestic terrorism? Insurgency? Militia? Protesters? Freedom Fighters? Patriots?

What do these words mean? What does protest even look like? Who gets to protest and who gets shut down?

These are all big questions both for our world and for our school.

In the discussion, Mr. Vega pointed out that it will be important to see what happens as a result of the Oregon terrorists, militia, protesters, insurgents, organizers, group. We talked about how some people have moved to making fun of the group — calling them #VanilaISIS or #YallQueda. Does belittling their cause dismiss their impact, or rather, does it simply give them an “out”? Because, when they walk away from this all, will they be held accountable for their actions or dismissed as “crazy, silly, bunch of yahoos”? What should our response be – our local response, our community response, our country’s response?

How is it that a group of white, armed men can take over a federal building and not be bothered, yet a group of Black peaceful protesters are thrown in jail, faced with the armed officers, and depicted as animals?

I mean, What does protest look like?

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

 

 

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

 

Conversation Circle: Higher Education and Race

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!

#Mizzou #Yale #BlackLivesMatter

Frontline protesters at the University of Missouri

Frontline protesters at the University of Missouri

Around the country, students in colleges and universities are raising awareness through protests, marches, sit-ins, and confrontation of administration demanding that their institutions pay attention to the lack of racial diversity in leadership, curriculum, representation and culture on campuses. Though our students at Park School are still years away from enrolling in colleges and universities, the activism and dialogue around race and education is central to their own education at Park School. On Tuesday, November 23rd, faculty and staff gathered for a Conversation Circle to discuss what their own college/university experience was around issues of race and how we might use our agency as educators to a) shape a more responsive Park School community and b) to engage our students to be leaders in understanding race.

Some of us shared that this experience that today’s students are protesting are the same – or similar – to what was occurring when many of us were in school. Today’s racial climate is calling for more responsive leaders in higher education, many of them White, to serve as allies to communities of color. But, more importantly, today’s higher education climate requires that leaders understand the racialized experiences that marginalize students of color on historically White college and university campuses.

What are the demands of student activists? The demands are simply to provide equity in the educational process. Students are asking for more faculty of color in classrooms, more leaders of color in key positions, and a curriculum that reflects the diverse contributions of people of color in this country. They are asking that people who work in higher education be culturally aware and culturally responsive — through trainings, workshops, and evaluations, staff and faculty in colleges and universities should know how to work with racially diverse communities.

What does this mean for Park School? The culture and climate of education — whether it is in higher education, secondary or elementary — is that we must be responsible for educating and preparing our students for a globally dependent society. We must teach students how to think critically about a diverse world around them and how to engage in meaningful, respectful, and mutually responsive ways. At Park, we do this by engaging in conversations daily — not just in single workshops — about cultural identifiers such as race, gender, sexuality, ability, class and we make sure these conversations happen both in the classroom and outside of the classroom. We work closely with parents and caring adults to support messages of inclusion both at school and at home. And, we shape our policies and practices to support an inclusive community.

A key component of being responsive is to never believe we have it perfectly right. In fact, a responsive education is one that reflects the changing needs of a developing community.

Diversity is who we are. Equity is what we strive to provide. Inclusion is how we get there.

Peace and Park,

Liza

Conversation Circle: Cross-Racial Friendships

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!

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At Park School, we often think about the importance of cross-racial interactions with our students. We are intentional about our classroom demographics, the opportunities for our students to play together in cross-racial groups, and encourage collaboration and teamwork. We are mindful about isolation, about segregation and about the need for affinity in the lives of our students.

Yet, how often do we as adults think about our own friendships, interactions and social circles. How cross-racial are our relationships?

The guiding questions for this conversation circle on cross-racial friendships included:

  • We ask students to interact across racial groups. Do we model the same expectations as adults?
  • Do you have meaningful cross-racial friendships? What are the barriers to developing cross-racial friendships?
  • Do we notice when Students of Color are grouped together more so than when Students who are White are grouped together? Is our response different? Should our response be different?

Along with these questions, we encouraged participants to check out this article and video here.

What are your thoughts about and experiences with cross-racial friendships?

Peace and Park,

Liza

Liza's closest circle of friends (racially self-identify as Asian, African, White, Asian, Latina)

Liza’s closest circle of friends (racially self-identify as Asian, African, White, Asian, Latina)

 

 

 

Conversation Circle: Race and Schooling

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!

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A recent incident at Spring Valley High School was publicly released and went viral as a video showed a young, Black female student being thrown to the ground by a White, male school security officer. As educators, this brought up many strong feelings about classroom environment, school safety, student responsiveness, discipline vs respect vs obedience, and ongoing racial tensions that our country has been experiencing. The conversation circle focused on two major questions:

  • What were your first reactions about the incident that occurred at Spring Valley High School?
  • National studies have shown that “black students were far more likely than whites to be disciplined in public schools, even for comparable offenses.” What are your first few reactions to that statement? In what way does this conflict with or affirm what you have known or experienced?
  • On social media, comments such as “If she only just complied with the officer’s request …” or “If she was more respectful to her teacher, this never would have happened…” From your lens and experience, what is the difference between obedience and respect? How have you experienced those differences, if at all?

Further, participants were encouraged to view the following two pieces. NOTE: The video and article linked below contain the video (played on repeat) of the incident at Spring Valley High School. 

Article: “She Was Guilty of Being a Black Girl: The mundane terror of police violence in American schools”

Video: Professor Brittney Cooper, Rutgers University, discusses what could have been done differently.

What were your reactions to the both the incident and the public nature of the incident?

Peace and Park,

Liza