It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.— Maya Angelou
Various Harbor Day School teachers have attended the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual People of Color Conference over the past several years. These teachers found alignment between the POCC credo of “a commitment to equity and justice in teaching, learning, and organizational development” and the HDS mission phrase “building strong moral character and encouraging social responsibility.” To build on the foundation of these two phrases, several faculty and staff members -Sarah Oliphant, Sylvanda Padilla, Susan Johnson, Yunga Webb, and Chatom Arkin - formed the Inclusivity and Diversity Committee. They invited the rest of the faculty and staff to join the committee, and they found 25 dedicated members willing to meet after school on a quarterly basis with a goal of enacting positive change toward inclusivity and diversity on our campus.
With great effort and commitment, the Inclusivity and Diversity Committee has made serious strides. To begin, collaboration led to the creation of a mission statement:
Our mission is to promote a culture of understanding where we value the unique qualities of our community constituents. Instilling a sense of ownership as we strive to increase awareness and influence actions, we take a stand against prejudice, and we celebrate inclusivity. Within the Harbor Day curriculum, we aim to recognize, appreciate, and share each person’s experiences, thereby enhancing the lens through which we all view the world.
The work of the Inclusivity and Diversity Committee is evident in the classroom. Chatom Arkin has revised his reading curriculum to include book bundle units that emphasize empathy and tolerance. One such book bundle is called the Social Justice Book Bundle. After working with a few key vocabulary terms - dominant culture, racial stigma, and tokenism - his students read and analyze one of four books: All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds; Outrun the Moon, by Stacey Lee; Funny in Farsi, by Firoozeh Dumas; and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Saenz. At the end of the unit, the students demonstrate mastery of the concepts by presenting how the author either adhered to or challenged the vocabulary terms within the text they read.
Similarly, in Lower School, Ms. Oliphant re-examined the curriculum she was teaching during Black History Month and realized she was perpetuating a “single story” by only discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Because Black History Month involves learning about contributions made by people of color throughout history, including today, the second grade teaching team worked together to expose students to nonfiction chapter books highlighting the accomplishments of a wider array of people, such as Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey, and Usain Bolt, to name just a few.
With the Inclusivity and Diversity Committee up and running, goals have been established. To begin, the Committee would like to ensure the teaching of more than a single story in all grade levels. Furthermore, the Committee would do the same work in the Upper School Advisory Program and with student clubs. In fact, the Committee has considered starting an Inclusivity and Diversity club that would help students practice mindfulness; develop empathy; advocate for self and others; understand global citizenship; and express gratitude. Finally, the Committee has actively looked into various professional development opportunities aimed at educating teachers and staff on this important subject matter.
The future at Harbor Day is bright and colorful, and the Inclusivity and Diversity Committee is proud to work at a school that honors each of its students and meets each student wherever he or she is ready to be met.