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NAIS People of Color Conference: Are the Numbers Enough?


5th Grade Teacher Cemal Ford’s final entry on the NAIS People of Color Conference shares some food for thought on the practical implementation of diversity values in school environments, gleaned from the Are the Numbers Enough? presented by Terri Wallace (Quest Academy, IL), and Jackie Wells (Maumee Valley Country Day School, OH). -Ed.

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While at the POCC there were many great breakout sessions and workshops but my favorite one was: Are the Numbers Enough? presented by Terri Wallace and Jackie Wells under the Organizational Development and Institutional Change track.  

How do we assess whether our schools are diverse learning environments and how do we achieve this goal? How do we attack the issue and start the conversation? These were some of the things discussed in the session. Some other ideas and suggestions that were posed  were around the leadership of diversity, whether it was or wasn’t necessary to have a direct point person in a given school environment. Either way, it seems definitely beneficial to have a team in place to help move things forward.

More Questions:

In our day to day operation of the schools that we are in, do we consider some of these things or have these in place?

Do we lead a task force / team about how or why we need a director of diversity or diversity planning? Who would be our team, and with what rationale?

How does your school define diversity–  is it based on different school activities and what we expose our students to or is it based on cultures and backgrounds? Where in the mission is diversity located? It should be near the top to show it is one of the top priorities.

Other tidbits of consideration:

-Member and family makeup, do we count these?

-Does diversity to us just mean we get to just say we have it but not really acting on it? Do we just do it for the check boxes that makes us look “good”/diverse?

– Do we demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity? Are we committed to this from a racial and culture standpoint and really mean it? What are our specific goals around it?

How does your school celebrate diversity? Do we do diversity days or celebrations of diversity, culture days , foods/festival culture, story telling/ literature or any other activities we do?

-Is it equitable in work practices? Is everyone treated equally, is everyone  (especially considering differences in culture) considered when the hiring process begins? Are your treated just like any other co-worker or are you treated like a number or token?

-Does the school have investigations of cultural disciplines? Are we digging deep into cultural practices and history?

-Curriculum inclusions? Are people of color included in the curriculum and represented in our teachings?

The presenters also made time for this key question: Why is talking about diversity is important? The conclusions they made included:

-Because the #’s aren’t enough

-You move from a reactive to proactive, values-based stance

-Considering this is an asset to learning about being connected to global citizenship and awareness

-It helps us understand how to improve our services to meet students needs

-It helps us understand the experiences of a target population to diminish inequity and improve their experiences