Identity and Inclusion - Diversity at CAIS

This year, perhaps more than ever before, we are grateful that the CAIS community has 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.

ONGOING WORK AT CAIS

During March 2017 Inservice days, our 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

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.

Guest Speaker

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 twenty faculty, staff, parents and board members, convenes monthly and is tasked with publishing a CAIS Identity & Inclusion statement by the end of this school year. We aim for the eventual statement 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 will have an opportunity to provide insight and feedback on the statement during the week of April 3rd. Stay tuned for specific details on how to participate in this critical conversation.

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

If you would be interested in hearing more about the integration of Identity and Inclusion in the classrooms, please join us for Coffee & Questions at the 888 Campus on March 29. See specific details in the sidebar to the right.

WAYS CAIS PARENTS CAN PARTICIPATE

We sincerely hope that you will be able to participate in as many of the following events as possible:

Wednesday, March 29
8:30-9:30 a.m.

Coffee and Questions at
888 Campus
RSVP

Join us after drop-off on March 29 to learn 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) will share their experiences in bringing important conversations of identity and diversity into their classrooms.



Monday, April 3,
5:00-6:30 p.m.

Equipping Your Child to Navigate a World of Identities
An Evening with Alison Park at 150 Oak
RSVP

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 will help us to navigate these difficult, and deeply important, conversations with our children.



Tuesday, April 4 through
Friday, April 6

Collecting Community Input

Various times, various locations

Especially appropriate to the nature of this work, the Identity & Inclusion Statement Task Force is working to develop a variety of ways for receiving input and feedback on the Identity & Inclusion Statement from all CAIS parents. We’re exploring the best mix of vehicles and venues to make it easier for everyone to participate and will be following up with complete details shortly.  

 


 

PAST WORK

Our work for 2015-16 on the multi-year Identity and Inclusion strategic objective included establishing Gender Inclusion Guidelines, revising our behavior response guidelines to specifically include language about discrimination, and forming an advisory group of staff and parents to work on drafting a philosophy statement around diversity and inclusion. The long-term and ongoing work also includes staff development, parent education, and finding opportunities to intentionally integrate this work into curriculum and instruction. We will build on weaving this learning into the fabric of the school through our Social Emotional Learning task force and our multi-year Identity and Inclusion strategic objective. We hold as our “true north” the hope that CAIS is a community in which all students, families, and staff feel fully included and respected, and we are continually working towards that goal. 

In Head of School Jeff Bissell’s end of year message to the community he shared the following: 

As a school community, we are focusing on the right things and taking the right steps: Identity. Inclusion. Diversity. Justice. Action. These are values that, as educators and parents, we can teach and that we can live. As a school community we have put a stake in the ground; we are making a commitment to being intentional, to being thorough and to being accountable around these values. In 2016-17 we are enlisting a community task force (listed in the sidebar to the right) to forge a philosophy statement, powerful words to guide purposeful actions that are mission consistent and reflective of a collaborative, community-minded process. The task force is inclusive in terms of identity, skill set, perspective and institutional role. Ongoing curriculum work, professional development for teachers and staff as well as opportunities for parent input and education will be happening in tandem with the creation of an overall philosophy statement. In the face of the myriad complexities that can and sometimes do manifest themselves as fear, hatred, exclusion, discrimination and violence, we—both parents and educators—need to become our best selves and to help our children become their best selves. It starts at home and in school, and it needs to start when our children are young. As we look to the future, I very much look forward to doing this critical life changing, world changing work together with you.”