14 Jan Creating Space For Our Voices
Earlier this fall I was invited to facilitate a Leadership Seminar for people of color and women interested in leadership. I was invited by Caroline Blackwell, Executive Director of Equity and Justice for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and Amani Reed, Head of School at the School for Columbia University. In early December I joined them at the NAIS People of Color Conference in Tampa, Florida to begin this important work.
The seminar focused on understanding pathways to leadership within independent schools. Caroline, Amani, and I initiated the dialogue by sharing our personal narratives of how we came to headship. As I prepared for the day, I reflected on what led me to Advent.
My parents were active duty service members in the US Army during my childhood. This background gave me insight into many different cultures, races, religions, and social constructs that many of my peers did not have. Even in my early years I was aware of the inequity of so many of the world’s systems.
I have a vivid memory of listening to Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech in the 2nd grade. My teacher, Ms. Fisher, asked us to reflect on Dr. King’s words. I remember hearing the passion in his voice; even at age seven I could hear the sense of possibility in his words. I understood then that I too could have a voice and that I should have a voice.
As I prepared for my time in Tampa, I looked back at the last 20 years of my professional path and realized my life’s work was about creating space to allow everyone to have a voice. I understood that my past work in education, community development, curriculum design, diversity, and facilitation brought me to Advent. This position allows me to align my own values, my past professional experiences, and all the possibility I heard in Dr. King’s voice as a seven year old. What is happening in the walls of Advent truly aligned with my life’s work. My words to our graduates at the 2015 graduation were this,
“Because of these students, I knew who I wanted to be as an educator. You, class of 2015, helped me really understand what was important, what was needed, what was right. In 20 years of education, I found my home with this class”.
In two weeks I will travel to Columbia University for a Fellowship at the renowned Klingenstein Institute for Heads of School. There, I will work with 20 heads of school from all over the world who are dedicated to supporting best practices in education. I will have the opportunity to research and study the importance of social emotional learning in K-12 schools and the alignment of developmental possibilities within academics to ensure our students have the skills they need.
I am honored to represent Advent in this setting and will bring the pedagogy of the Advent curriculum with me to share. At Advent we give a voice to our students, a voice that enables them to fully dive into our curriculum. Our curriculum is rich in academic vigor with the understanding that a concentration of social emotional skills is part of the academic journey, sparking the idea of “possibility” in our students.
In a time when the world seems more polarized than ever, our children are learning to speak up, stand up, and opt in, using their foundation of questioning, understanding, and empathy. As we enter this weekend of reflection of a man who moved a country and reminded us that as a community great things were possible, I am honored to be with a community that shares in the values of Dr. King:
“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964