At The Children’s School, we understand that diversity in all aspects is essential to the growth of an individual and community. It’s critical for us as educators, and inherent partners in raising children, to create space for every one to confidently show up as their authentic self. We are thankful for our community full of supporters that help us uphold a nurturing, inclusive learning environment.
As lifelong learners, we continue to learn from our students and reflect and adapt through experiences like the Diversity Leadership Institute (DLI). DLI offers curriculum for independent school leaders to “develop mindful initiatives and enhance ongoing efforts that support [our] institution’s mission.” Diversity and inclusion are baked into TCS’s DNA and we are committed to continuous, thoughtful improvement in our practices.
Thanks to generous gifts to our Annual Giving Campaign, a team of TCS all-stars including Morgan Darby (director of student life and inclusion), Natalie Grubbs (TCS counselor), Erin Joyner (middle grades counselor), and Callie Benson (TCS librarian) were able to attend this year’s program and shared their reflections below:
Q: What are the strongest takeaways that you’re excited to bring back to TCS?
- Morgan: “#1: This work is relational. #2: Make the DEI interactive and embed into real, authentic stories. #3: Roleplay #4: Co-lead whenever possible. The competency strands that were offered by the DLI faculty were often led by two facilitators. Those were the best because you had the option to learn insights and stories from two people instead of one. There’s a rhythm that you have to be willing to tap into, to allow for the flow of emotions, dissemination of knowledge, and to apply the competency in a given scenario.”
- Erin: “Working in education requires practitioners to strike a constant balance between emotional and practical intelligence. In diversity, equity, and inclusion work, this balance is especially necessary and fragile. DLI gave me the tools to find this balance intentionally on both a micro (interactional) and macro (institutional) level. I appreciated the shift from discussions of promoting inclusion to building belonging for all students because of, not in spite of, their unique expressions of identity. I am especially excited to promote this through advisory programming in middle school.”
- Natalie: “I am excited to bring back what I’ve learned about leading conversations about diversity and equity with administrators, faculty members, and parents. At DLI, we received many resources to use to begin to think through policies and decisions in the classroom and beyond that are best for all students.”
- Callie: “I’m most excited to have new tools and resources to use to do this work. I learned so much from the experience, and I also realize just how much more I have to learn. I also feel incredibly fortunate to be part of the TCS community, knowing that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords of the moment for us but a core part of who we are.”
Q: How do you see the experience informing your practice?
- Morgan: “After this experience, I am still reminded of the patience that is required for those just entering the conversations which promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in private schools. I did learn differently the strategies for listening with intention and staying present in difficult conversations when I didn’t want to.”
- Erin: “From a counseling perspective, honoring identity work is simply best practice for supporting students’ development of sense of self in adolescence. In creating emotionally responsive classrooms, we must be responsive to the individuality of each child, as well as the functioning of the group. DLI provided me with greater context in understanding and supporting each child while facilitating group dynamics that are developmentally supportive, inclusive, and appropriate. I am taking back with me a reenergized and refocused spirit, along with practical tools and strategies to promote and engage in this work, including improved collaboration and communication skills with all stakeholders.”
- Natalie: “In my role as counselor, I am excited to integrate conversations about identity, equity, and diversity in my work directly with students through large and small group activities. I am also more equipped to advocate for all students and their needs, having new tools to use as I look through the lens of diversity and equity.”
- Callie: “I am looking at all aspects of my teaching practice with a fresh perspective, rethinking how I approach certain topics and trying to recognize and address my own biases. I’m still doing a lot of thinking about how systemic racism shows up in the classroom and what it truly means to be an anti-racist educator.”
Q: How would you describe your experience overall?
- Morgan: “The people I had the opportunity to learn with and live with during the week were incredibly authentic and open to sharing their stories. They made the experience a very memorable one. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and know some incredibly skilled and passionate DEI-informed leader-warriors in independent schools.”
- Erin: “There is a concept in counseling called congruence, in which people feel that their inner selves are aligned with their everyday lives and decisions. At DLI, I felt the strongest sense of personal and professional congruence – it is truly impossible to describe the fulfillment I experienced through sharing time and space with such a committed, engaged, and intelligent group of educators. I now have a personal and professional support group to guide me through difficult situations, and with whom I can celebrate success. I am full of gratitude for the opportunity to participate in DLI and I have been forever transformed by the experience.”
- Natalie: “I would describe the experience as transformative, reflective, and collaborative. I loved the opportunities to reflect on my own experiences as a woman of color working in independent schools, as a parent of children of color attending independent schools, and as a counseling practitioner. One quote from the institute that resonates with me is “once you know, you can’t not know”, and a raised awareness is crucial in working as a student advocate and supporter.”
- Callie: “It was the most valuable professional development experience I’ve ever had, because what I learned truly applies to every aspect of my life. It was an intense week, intellectually and emotionally, but I feel optimistic and re-energized for the coming school year.”