Reflections from the NAIS People of Color Conference

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Kelly Fantegrossi, Annual Fund Director

Among the many things that The Carroll Annual Fund supports each year are professional development conferences for our faculty. This year, four Carroll educators participated in the 2020 NAIS - People of Color Conference (PoCC) to further their understanding of themselves and the work of DEI at Carroll.

At its core, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work is about acceptance - what do we accept, what should we not accept, where do we feel accepted, who do we accept, and where do we have unconscious beliefs that are keeping us from accepting ourselves and others? With a rich history spanning more than 30 years, PoCC is unique among professional development experiences in the national education landscape. PoCC equips educators at every level, from teachers to trustees, with knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in their schools, as well as the attending academic, social-emotional, and workplace performance outcomes for students and adults alike

Reflections from Osa Osagie

For Osa Osagie, Director of Equity and Inclusion and 5th Grade History Teacher, one of the most powerful moments was the introduction given by a speaker to open The NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), which is a parallel conference to PoCC for independent school student leaders (grades 9-12). Osa shared that this opening speech, which focused on the theme for the students’ conference this year, articulated many things she had been thinking about the importance and value of DEI work for our community.

"2020. Wow, we really have no words. It's the perfect storm as private schools took out PPP loans in the midst of pandemics, protests and presidential elections. What if our schools responded to the pandemics of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and xenophobia like we responded to COVID-19? What if we made people cover their mouths to protect others from their anti-diversity statements that infect the environment and attack the heart and lungs of our work? What if we asked people to check themselves for symptoms of oppressive thoughts and aggressive actions before you came on here? What if we did active contact tracing and checked in with everyone who may have been impacted by negative incidents on campus and looked constantly at the data and trends? And what if we were constantly checking and cleaning our environment, sanitizing it for the social health and well-being of all?”

"I was truly moved by this idea of treating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work as a Public Health Issue. How would we respond differently? What if we gave the same kind of urgency, care, and consideration to issues of difference in the way that we are doing with COVID?” In thinking about how this conference furthers her work as a leader at Carroll, Osa shared, “One of my good friends commented that we mandate first aid training for our teachers and staff because it's a lifesaving skill. DEI training is also a lifesaving skill and the quote emcompasses that thought. It compels me to think, how do we make that idea more real in everything we do at Carroll?”

Reflections from Demi Wu

For Demi Wu, 4th Grade Math Teacher, the PoCC was part of a year of firsts for her. As a new teacher this year, Demi joined the Carroll Faculty during a pandemic and took part in this conference for the first time. A native born Tawainese who has spent more than half of her life in cultures other than her own, Demi appreciated the opportunity to reflect with other Asian Faculty members through PoCC affinity groups about what it’s like to teach in the United States and also retain your own cultural perspective.

“Though racism and social injustice occurs everywhere in the world, the United States is more diverse than many other countries. I learned a lot about how to approach specific topics of difference in ways that are appropriate for younger students as well as hearing many perspectives on how difference shows up in a school environment. At Carroll, I’ve been so pleased to discover the openness with which diversity and current events are being addressed in our Professional Learning Communities. This conference gave me more insight into how I may be able to add to these conversations and how to explore ideas on how to think differently about our teaching.”

Reflections from Nicole Siverls

“This year’s PoCC was an affirming experience that both validates the DEI work currently done at Carroll, as well as challenges us to GEC even better,” shared Nicole Siverls, Lower School Science Teacher. “One take-away from the conference that I found intriguing was the idea of DEI vs. DEJ. This year, POCC held its first Social Justice Summit: New Decade/ New Destinies.. Dr. Khyati Joshi was among the keynote speakers and during the Summit, she used the term DEJ, or Diversity, Equity and Justice. I was reminded, as a result of the conference,that we are privileged as members of an independent school community. Our independent school is a vanguard of innovative thinking. How do we use our privilege to make an impact? Ms. Osagie, our beloved DEI expert states that DEI is a philosophy as well as an action. DEI is needed in content areas beyond history. In science, DEI is connected to the need for representation as well as concern for environmental issues. I've been thinking about how I can bring a DEJ lens to the science classes I teach in the lower school, as a result of PoCC.”

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