On Dec. 1, Lakeside faculty and staff took part in a daylong training and conversation around the subject of anti-racist pedagogy (teaching practices) and making the school more inclusive and culturally responsive to students. The professional development was part of the school’s equity and inclusion initiative, Our Work Together: Inclusion, Multiculturalism, Respect.
“The day was a launching pad to advance our faculty’s understanding of anti-racism in education, and how we, as individual teachers, can make immediate and long term changes,” shared Assistant Director of Equity and Inclusion Debbie Bensadon. “Our hope is that departments begin to revisit their teaching and assessment practices. This day provides them with time to learn, brainstorm, and collaborate on the work needed to shift their practice to be increasingly inclusive and multicultural.”
The tone for the day was set by Erin Jones, Washington State’s 2013 Milken Educator of the Year, a nationally recognized speaker and leader on issues related to equity and social justice. She shared her remarkable story: a child abandoned to an orphanage by a white woman in her 20s and a black man in his 60s, adopted by a white couple in Minnesota whose families threatened to disown them over the adoption of a black-skinned child, whose K-12 education took place at the elite, multicultural American School of the Hague in the Netherlands — a school not unlike Lakeside, she pointed out. Speaking by Zoom from her home in Olympia, Jones urged the school’s faculty and staff to approach their work with intentional awareness of humility, humanity, and history. Not judging by what is on the surface, but finding connection and common ground through the discovery of shared experiences. “By sharing and understanding our personal stories,” she said, “we can create the space to build bridges between us.”
After Jones’s talk, faculty began an exploration of an extensive, wide-ranging list of websites, articles, and and other resources focused on anti-racist pedagogy. Lakeside librarians, led by Upper School library department head Monica Gu, had spent the fall assembling and curating the resources. Faculty reconvened in cross-divisional groups to share thoughts, diving into topics including designing assessments for equity and inclusion; understanding and assessing student participation in a fair and just way; providing student social and emotional support in remote and blended learning environments; and incorporating competencies and mindsets in an anti-racist curriculum. The readings helped inform the afternoon conversations and will become part of the resources available for the community as it moves forward in Our Work Together, Lakeside’s equity and inclusion initiative.
Speaking to the faculty on Zoom before afternoon departmental meetings, Head of School Bernie Noe referenced an inspiring article by Pope Francis, “A Crisis Reveals What is in Our Hearts.” He shared “So many in our world, in our own country, and even in our enormously privileged school, experience a COVID 19-[level] crisis every day, every month, every year: systemic poverty and hunger, systemic racism, systemic hopelessness and despair, senseless wars and the millions of refugees they generate. [They] all create a public health crisis and premature death for millions. That preceded the COVID-19 crisis and will still be there when we all become vaccinated.
“The only difference, Francis correctly points out, is that most of us do not see … [or] feel threatened by them every day. As a result, we fail to change our personal agendas, or institutional agendas and priorities. Francis poses the question: How will we deal with all of the hidden pandemics of this world? … In incorporating anti-racist teaching practices into your course work now, and going into the future, you create a more just school, a school where all of our students see themselves in their school’s curriculum and a school where all can bring their full selves to school.”
All members of the Lakeside community are invited to participate in the 2020–2021 Virtual Equity & Inclusion Speaker Series. Farzana Nayani, the second speaker in the series, will discuss “Raising Multiracial Children: Tools for Nurturing Identity in a Racialized World” via Zoom at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9. Learn more.