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2016-2017 Identity and Inclusion Work
In 2016-2017 the CAIS community committed wholeheartedly to the work of building and nurturing an inclusive environment. Identity is simply a fact. Individuals within any group carry with them their own unique mix of identities. Inclusion, on the other hand, is active. It is the result of the practices and systems of a group that build that group into a community. Inclusion happens when the individuals within a group feel a sense of belonging and feel that the diversity of their experience and perspective is valued. It is through inclusion that a community truly thrives
In addition to administrator, teacher, and trustee training with Alison Park throughout fall 2016, during March 2017 Inservice days, CAIS faculty, staff and administrative team focused primarily on the work of Identity and Inclusion at CAIS. Here is some of the work we engaged in:
Affinity groups are intentional occasions for everyone to be in a specific conversation and Monday and Tuesday provided an opportunity for us to participate in discussions around identity, both individually and as a school community. Some of the questions that we responded to included, “What are the ways in which I feel included (or not included) in my personal identities at CAIS?” and “What role does identity play in ‘embracing Chinese’ as an institution?” The intention of these conversations was to engage with topics that can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but are critically important to our personal and professional growth as educators.
We welcomed a Chinese American transgender man to speak to our faculty and staff about his experiences with the intersectionality of gender and Chinese culture. He spoke about his early experiences growing up in a Chinese family as a girl who did not conform to societal expectations of gender, and the ways in which his ethnic and cultural identity shaped his experience throughout his transition. In addition to hearing his story, we also had the opportunity to ask questions about the ways in which we can be supportive of gender variance within the context of a Chinese American school.
CAIS Identity & Inclusion Statement Draft
The Identity & Inclusion Statement Task Force group, comprised of faculty, staff, parents and board members, convened monthly and was tasked with publishing a CAIS Identity & Inclusion statement by the end of the 2016-2017 school year. The statement was intentionally crafted to be:
- reflective of a collaborative process,
- accurately representative of the unique identity of CAIS as a school community and mission,
- relevant to all members of the community, and
- a living work plan that is actionable and consequential and affects future decision making.
Faculty and staff spent a significant amount of time during inservice reading and reflecting on the initial draft proposal and providing insight and feedback to strengthen the statement. Families had an opportunity to provide insight and feedback on the statement during the week of April 3rd.
Parent Partnership for Inclusion
A collaborative group of CAIS administrators and several parents of African American children meets regularly to work on shared goals of equity and inclusion that benefit Black students and families as well as the larger CAIS community. During the March 2017 inservice, faculty and staff had the opportunity to hear directly from several members of the group about their children’s personal experiences as African American students at CAIS. Participants left with a clearer understanding of the power of parent partnership in advancing the work of Identity & Inclusion at CAIS.
Identity and Inclusion in the Classroom
A working group of eleven teachers, spanning all three divisions and both languages, meet regularly to further the work of Identity & Inclusion in the curriculum. This week, members of the group facilitated grade level working sessions for teachers to plan for and reflect on, I&I units in their classrooms. Each grade level has committed to explicitly and proactively teaching at least two Identity and Inclusion skills (see Anti-Bias Framework for details) throughout the course of this school year. A few examples of the units teachers are working on include:
a Kindergarten unit on skin color that culminates in a self-portrait project with art teacher Lisa Ostapinski
a Fourth Grade immigration unit where students trace their lines of ancestry
a Sixth Grade interdisciplinary unit on identity
WAYS CAIS PARENTS PARTICIPATED
Coffee and Questions at 888 Campus, Wednesday, March 29
Parents learned more about how CAIS teachers have woven Identity and Inclusion into their classrooms this year using Teaching Tolerance’s AntiBias Framework skills. Four teachers, Lisa Ostapinski (PreK-3 Art), Lucy Sui (4 Chinese), Jack Crow (4 English), Emily Auchincloss (6 English and Humanities) shared their experiences in bringing important conversations of identity and diversity into their classrooms.
Equipping Your Child to Navigate a World of Identities, An Evening with Alison Park at 150 Oak, Monday, April 3
The awareness of one’s own identity and the ability to understand, and be inclusive of, a multitude of perspectives and experiences are skills that can and should be practiced. Over the course of this year, CAIS faculty and staff have engaged in a series of facilitated conversations by Alison Park from Blink Consulting to build our “toolkits” for how to facilitate our students’ understanding of identity and inclusion. Children naturally are curious and interested in questions of identity and each time a child brings an issue of identity to an adult - a teacher or a family member - it becomes an opportunity to engage in meaningful, inclusive and empathetic conversations. The trouble is, as adults we often struggle to find the “right” words or have the “best” response. Alison Park spoke with parents to help navigate these difficult, and deeply important, conversations with our children.
Collecting Community Input, Tuesday, April 4 through Friday, April 6
Especially appropriate to the nature of this work, the Identity & Inclusion Statement Task Force worked to develop a variety of ways for receiving input and feedback on the Identity & Inclusion Statement from all CAIS parents. CAIS used a mix of in-person and online feedback tools to make it easier and comfortable for all parents to participate.