by Stephanie Wright, history teacher and department head, faculty equity programs coordinator
The 2018 NAIS People of Color Conference woke everyone up on day one with a rousing performance from the Tennessee State band. The day ended with a free performance from the Fisk Jubilee choir. Both performances paid homage to the ways that African Americans have made Nashville the city that it is. Everything in between those two performances reflected the mix of excitement, frustration, joy, and exhaustion that comes with doing the work of building equitable schools where students and faculty and staff can bring their full selves to school.
Educators came looking for ways to connect with and learn from one another. This was clear from the overflowing room at our workshop, “Real Talk Done Right: Engaging Our School Communities in Difficult Conversations,” which was put together by myself, my Lakeside colleague Debbie Bensadon, Mahtab Mahmoodzadeh from The Overlake School, and E-Chieh Lin (University Prep). At Overlake, they are getting their White Educator Alliance group off the ground. And at University Prep, they’ve been training student facilitators for the last five years.
Debbie and I shared how we’re building the capacity of Lakeside students and adults to have difficult conversations about race and privilege through the To Be Honest conversations and in advisory spaces. People were eager to hear about how we’re providing curriculum for our faculty at Lakeside and training Upper School students to guide middle schoolers in discussions about difference. Ultimately, we’re aiming to make Lakeside School the best it can be for each and every student who walks through the door.
As presenters, we didn’t just share. We also learned about the challenges other schools are facing and how they are trying to address them. And we gave encouragement to everyone. The work continues.