06 May Advancing Diversity at Advent

Shakira Perry, Executive Assistant to the Head of School, and Erina Spiegelman, Instructional Coordinator, represented Advent at the National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA) Conference. The conference was held in Boston at the beginning of April. Shakira and Erina sit on the Diversity Committee, which is a subset of the Board of Trustees. This conference will contribute to future discussion and school-wide initiatives. Here, Shakira shares her reflections on the event.

Executive Assistant to the Head of School

Shakira Perry, Executive Assistant to the Head of School

Erina and I attended the NPEA Conference this year for the first time and it was exciting, eye-opening, and inspirational. This conference brings together educators from all over the country to provide helpful resources, information, data, and forums to connect and learn from one another. NPEA addresses the best practices for meeting the individual and collective needs of students and their families with marginalized and underrepresented identities, such as students of color.

We attended workshops that facilitated conversation on how educators can incorporate certain topics in the classroom such as identity development, inspiring leadership for students of color, and supporting students through their intersecting identities, such as race, class, religion, and gender.

Instructional Coordinator

Erina Spiegelman, Instructional Coordinator

One of the many powerful workshops we attended was, “Identity Development and Spoken Word Poetry,” with Claire Geruson from the SteppingStone Foundation. Beginning with the oft-quoted question, “If you don’t know me, how can you teach me?” this presentation moved us to pose the question, “If I don’t know myself, how can I truly see others?”  Thinking and exploring identity through spoken word poetry focused this work on self-love, self-acceptance, and self-knowledge in community. The process of sharing and reading aloud poems became – for students and for those attending the workshop –  a way to recognize the ways in which our identities are different and how they affect the way we see and engage with the world. We explored the way in which poetry, too, is a way to pose questions of identity as much as provide a forum to answer them. This can be heard and felt in one student’s poem:

Who Am I???????????
I might be a little girl? I might be Hispanic?
I might be brave? Am I different?
Am I straight? Am I what I not seem?
Who am I? I feel as if there is no answer
I feel my path point me to the right direction
I feel afraid because I don’t know
Who am I?
I know I’m curious of things around me
I know I’m friendly
I know that I am respectful of others
I know what I am here for
Who am I? I am me and you are you
I am unique and you are too
Who am I?

While Erina and I learned we can share succinctly in this blog post. We are excited to continue the conversations from the conference here at Advent. We both were so grateful for the opportunity to learn new practices and see how other educators approach the difficult conversations around identity and social identifiers with their students. It also was an opportunity to forge new relationships with other schools, administrators, and each other. We are looking forward to the continued opportunity to share our experience and resources gathered with classroom teachers and in our roles on the Diversity Committee.