Living Our Mission in the Lower School
By Molly McKeever, 3rd Grade Teacher and DEI Coordinator
In the third grade this year, we're focusing on concepts of identity in our new bi-weekly “Team Time” block. “Team Time” is dedicated to a series of all-grade group projects and diversity, equity and inclusion activities—part of the larger work we’ve been doing on DEI at Carroll. We began with identity because having a sense of both personal identity and group identity provides children with a sense of belonging—an essential step in setting our students up for academic success.
Osa Osagie, Director of Equity and Inclusion, shared with us that, “for 52 years Carroll has done a great job of looking at DEI through the lens of learning, access to education, reading, and the power of literacy. But we also need to understand that our learners come from a variety of different cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, various family structures, and lived experiences.” This helped me focus on how best to meet the diverse needs of our students: their language-based learning differences and their cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.
The identity curriculum includes six units, each linked to a children’s book. We started the year by exploring external factors of identity: ourselves, our family, and our community. We read the story Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, and considered ways to describe ourselves and our families. For younger students, it’s too complex to jump directly to speaking about personal identity. Instead, we start off with very concrete external examples of identity—what things look like, our skin tones, hair type, family structure, etc.—and then build from there.
In the second half of the year, we’ve focused on internal concepts: not simply what people, families, and communities look like physically, but how they are unique internally. We may look the same on the outside, but we're different on the inside—and conversely, we may share common experiences or similar internal qualities, despite appearing different on the outside.
We wrote our own learning stories, which we began by reading and listening to the stories of people from different walks of life. I have dyslexia, so I shared my personal learning story with my class, and what dyslexia looks like for me. The students then wrote and illustrated their learning stories, sharing key things that shaped their experience along the way.
Our goal is to build empathy; when students understand who they are on the inside, what can shape them on the inside, and what creates bonds between them, we can guide them through perspective-taking—a process they will hopefully continue in future grades, and for the rest of their lives.
Perspective-taking: The ability to understand how a situation appears to another person, and how that person is reacting cognitively and emotionally to the situation.
This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection 22-23: Living our mission every day as an inclusive community of learners
- Carroll Connection 2022-23