Category Archives: Council on Diversity and Equity

Reframing the “Trump-Effect” for Our Kids

15_fac_jusle_j-4405There is no doubt this past election has been far different than one we have ever seen. For some it was a refreshing change from the normal political rhetoric and for others it was a bit like watching a trainwreck. It has been interesting both as an educator and as a black man to watch both sides of the political spectrum churn over what should happen next. We can all agree that President-elect Trump isn’t perfect, but nor has anyone who has ever bid for the presidency. We have all said things we regret, or typed something we never intended the world to see.

Try Not to Feed into the Hysteria
It is just as important that our kids see us be vulnerable, as it is for them to see us poised in the face of something difficult. Stay excited and energized to be part of a culture that provides space for voices of dissent as well as consonance and there may be instances where our nation has been better at this than others, but how lucky are we to live in such an exciting time. We are living history before our very eyes. Fear in the human spirit often comes from our assumptions of the future coupled with the absence of trust in ourselves to be able to handle whatever circumstances come our way. Always keep in mind, hysteria encourages TV ratings not an educated electorate.

Advocacy isn’t the New Kid on the Block
As it has been for any human being who identifies with some sort of minority, it isn’t suddenly a new concept to advocate for one’s needs because the President-elect isn’t as politically correct as his predecessors. He isn’t the first imperfect person to bid and be put into a position of power and he probably won’t be the last. There always has been and will be people who will answer the call when our kinsman are in need. We must trust that our collective humanity will balance the scales and we can’t go around calling imbalance into existence with our words and actions. We have always managed to take care of ourselves in the end.

What Do We Say?

  1. We are Americans. We believe in democracy. We believe in the voice of the people. And that means accepting that things may or may not work out the way we imagined or wanted to but we trust that indelibly our nation’s creed will abound in this experiment we call freedom.
  2. We speak up. Silence is dangerous. We have an honor/responsibility to speak truth to power and support those in need.
  3. We respect one another not in spite of our differences but because of our differences.
  4. Bigotry is not up for debate. It is a stain on the history of our democracy and its our r
    esponsibility to understand it and purge it from our social fabric. Don’t believe the hype! (as we say in Brooklynese). Not everyone who voted for President-elect Trump is a racist. A great deal of them are Americans who voted for the best option they could, with the information they had in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness that our Declaration of Independence calls for.
  5. We don’t walk away. We will preserve and practice our sovereign right to engage in our governance even when it is inconvenient or cumbersome. We don’t just choose our President but our local officials too. And when our ideals don’t align, we engage in civic discussion to promote understanding not to treat our compatriots as other.

There are people in the world who are really good at showing us how to be. There are people in the world who have a knack for showing us how not to be. And more often than not, those two things can exist in the same person and the lessons we teach our kids remain the same. We teach them to have the discernment to delineate between the two. To remember our highest ideals and from there work together and when we strive to be our best selves, honor and responsibility are one and the same.

Jimmy Juste is Inly School’s Director of the Office of Inclusion and advises the school on programmatic, personnel, and community topics on diversity and equity. Before joining Inly, Jimmy taught middle and high school students in the NYC public school system. He also taught poetry at the Waverly School of the Arts in Brooklyn, NY and performing arts at MCC Theater, CenterStage NY, Usher New Look Foundation and Hospital Audiences Inc. Jimmy has worked as a professional background singer for the likes of Amos Lee, Patti Labelle, Josh Groban, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and St. Luke’s Orchestra. A teacher of many talents, Jimmy has a degree in theater and communications from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and is currently working on a degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Massachusetts.

Scituate is the New Brooklyn

15_fac_jusle_j-4405I come from the land of Breukelen. A land far, far away from here. Some of you might know it as Brooklyn. I was born of Haitian immigrants and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up around an array of dialects, inflections and rhythms. It was necessary for survival to decipher sound and I was good at it. Sound and language was an inherent aptitude of mine and not only was I good at understanding it with very little context, but I could code switch with ease. It was no credit of my own. It was the gift Brooklyn gave me. I was adorned with a gift to make people feel at ease with the sound of my voice. As a six-year-old, black kid in the BK, I felt immense power in that. There wasn’t much self-empowerment to be found lying around on the streets of East New York, but I had my voice. I often sat with my parents at the dinner table and listened to the way conversation flowed in and out of Creole, French and English, while Brazil played Mexico in a game of futbol on Telemundo in the background. I lived in a symphony of cultural sounds, but my father was the great noisemaker of the family. I could always find him dancing around while imitating a brass sound instrument while listening to the radio, or misusing an American idiom. Outside the house were voices from Puerto Rico that boomed from their diaphragms like cannon-fire. There were Dominican voices that lingered on diphthongs with a kind of driving determination. Voices from Ireland, Sudan, Italy, Guatemala, India, Jamaica and countless more. I had been around so many different ways of communicating.

Middle school was the first time I had been anywhere that wasn’t mostly people of color. My proclivity for sound and music coupled with exposure to a myriad of cultures made code switching easy for me, so I had a diverse group of friends and with adolescence in my veins I was drawn to friends of the female persuasion. Rita was Italian with wavy, dark hair and honey colored eyes. She was FLY! And I had accomplished the ultimate goal, I got her phone number AND her AOL Instant Messenger screen-name.  After a few days of my courting her via coiled phone cord, she began to like me enough to start calling me first.

“Jay! Rita is on the phone,” my father shouted.  I strutted down the stairs and approached the phone with a king’s appeal. “Was that your dad?” said my queen. “Yea.” “He’s got a cool accent!” It never occurred to me that my father spoke differently or had an accent. To me, he spoke like my father. Everyone spoke the way he spoke. “No, he doesn’t,” I snapped. “Yea, he does! It’s cool.” “Whatever,” I said with disdain. I was protective of it and protective of my father. So much so that I was turning my back on adolescent love for his good name. My experience with the sound of my father’s speech was quite different, I couldn’t hear his difference because it sounded like home to me. I was, in my naivete, bothered by the idea of my father being other. As far as I knew he was the best man I had ever known. He was not ‘other’, he was it.

I have now come to realize the tremendous gift he gave me by raising me in the cultural smorgasbord that is Brooklyn. He gave me the gift to navigate through all kinds of social circles with little turbulence. The gift to have experience and meet people from what and whom I may have been barred by means of my ‘blackness’ or socio-economic status. In a world that sometimes seems chock full of extremes rather than reason, my hope is to give the gift of Brooklyn to my students. Where, in a sea of homogenous faces, our kids can look difference in the eye with good judgement and esteemed curiosity. Together we strive to do a great work; to understand our neighbors and provide space for them to engage in our community as their truest selves. I am so grateful to be given to opportunity for my desk to become a pit stop for students, teachers and parents. With some elbow grease and hard reflection we can make Scituate a little more like Brooklyn ;-).

As a school we have decided to tackle race on our agenda for conversation. I’ve included a short but helpful article for parents. “6 Ways Parents Can Teach Their Kids About Race and Diversity.”

Jimmy Juste is Inly School’s Director of the Office of Inclusion and advises the school on programmatic, personnel, and community topics on diversity and equity. Before joining Inly, Jimmy taught middle and high school students in the NYC public school system. He also taught poetry at the Waverly School of the Arts in Brooklyn, NY and performing arts at MCC Theater, CenterStage NY, Usher New Look Foundation and Hospital Audiences Inc. Jimmy has worked as a professional background singer for the likes of Amos Lee, Patti Labelle, Josh Groban, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and St. Luke’s Orchestra. A teacher of many talents, Jimmy has a degree in theater and communications from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and is currently working on a degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Massachusetts.

Inly School Hosts First-Ever Montessori Middle School Diversity Conference

By Paran Quigley, Diversity Coordinator

MCODE_2 (1)“Inly should host something like this.” It was a simple enough statement, uttered by an Inly student at last fall’s AISNE Middle School Diversity Conference. The idea clearly resonated with the other Inly attendees, who quickly bounced around some thoughts about what that might look like and happily brought the fledgling plan back to campus with them. A year later, what started off as a wild idea has gathered steam, and here we are, gearing up to host the first ever Montessori Conference on Diversity and Equity (MCODE).

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, from 8:30 am until 3:00 pm, Montessori students, teachers, and parents will gather on Inly’s campus to “explore identity through diversity.” All attendees, plus our Inly 6th grade conference volunteers, will enjoy an opening keynote by Mike Benning and a closing interactive African Dance session with Shaumba Dibinga all together. For the bulk of the day, the 7th and 8th grade students and their teachers have several workshop sessions to choose from, while the attending parents have specially designed conference tracks to engage in.

Student workshops including a live-action “game of life,” an in-depth exploration of stereotypes in the media, and world cooking projects, to name a few. Parent tracks will focus on the questions of who we are and who our children are in the increasingly multicultural world in which we live. All attendees will leave with new skills, a broader perspective, and clear next steps for our journeys toward becoming better global citizens.

The Inly students who have attended the AISNE middle school diversity conferences over the past several years have learned a lot—how to salsa dance, exactly what percentage of human DNA is identical from one person to the next, and the power of sharing your own personal story through written free verse and spoken word performances alike, to name a few highlights.

“Montessori students know how to deeply engage in a discussion, take intellectual risks, and explore topics in a way that that is truly unique,” observes Donna Milani Luther, Inly Head of School, “So the plan to get as many Montessori middle school students as we can in one space to delve into identity and diversity was a magnetic idea that attracted a lot of enthusiasm.”

“I love new ideas and I love when our students and teachers innovate and raise the bar,” said Donna. “MCODE is an exciting example of this.”

We hope you can join us on October 25th.

 

News from the Council on Diversity and Equity: Multicultural Competencies for Students

by Paran Quigley, CDE co-chair and Middle School teacher

Celebration of CharacterHere at Inly, we are constantly assessing our curriculum to make sure our students have plenty of opportunities to build important next century skills. One of the many ways we examine our curriculum is through the lens of Multicultural Competencies for Students. According to this framework, all students should have curricular and programmatic opportunities to develop a skill base that will enable them to create an inclusive community and become global citizens.

Within these multicultural competencies, “Skill Set A” involves affirming diversity, “Skill Set B” involves encouraging critical thinking, and “Skill Set C” involves providing students with hands-on experiences.

Here’s a quick glance at some of the ways Inly students develop these critical multicultural skills:

All Inly students…

  • access stories that cultivate an appreciation for and interest in all kinds of people (Skill Set A) through our school library and literature selections.
  • seek out new experiences (Skill Set C) through a wide range of After School Program options.
  • gain cross-cultural communication skills (Skill Set A) by studying Spanish and Mandarin.
  • work to understand their own learning style, strengths, and stretches in multi-age environments (Skill Sets A, B, and C).

Toddler House students…

  • understand similarities among and differences between (Skill Set A) their families and their classmates’ families.
  • use images of children from around the world to recognize people have different life experiences (Skill Set A).

Children’s House students…

  • share personal stories about their own identities (Skill Set A) by planning for and participating in their Special Day.
  • become more aware of the world around them (Skill Set A) through their geography curriculum about the earth, continents, countries, states, and towns.

Lower Elementary students…

  • complete a family history project (Skill Set A) and share their stories with their classmates.
  • learn about commonalities all people share (Skill Set A) through their study of the fundamental needs of humans.
  • consider how groups of people have historically interacted with one another (Skill Set B) through their studies of migration.

Upper Elementary students…

  • discuss how to foster an open and inclusive classroom community (Skill Set A) during advisory group time.
  • build a model tenement house to combine what they know about their personal family history with what they learn about immigration to the United States (Skill Set B).
  • articulate different sides of historical debates (Skill Set C), like whether or not slavery should be abolished.

Middle School students…

  • develop their media literacy skills (Skill Set B) by identifying and discussing biases in news reports and accounts of historical events.
  • grapple with the ways in which human behavior and relationships are impacted by history (Skill Set B) through studying the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
  • apply their multicultural competencies by engaging in conferences like the Montessori Model United Nations and the AISNE Middle School Diversity Conference (Skill Set C).

Inly Alumni…

  • participate in a service learning trip to Guatemala with other Inly alumni (Skill Set C).
  • extend on their community service experiences, serve as allies in clubs at their new schools, and pursue opportunities to travel abroad (Skill Set C).

The Montessori cosmic education curriculum that has been expanding children’s worldviews for over 100 years is alive and well here at Inly. For more information on other philosophical underpinnings of multicultural education, check out the selected readings (link) posted on our Council on Diversity and Equity page. For more information on current happenings on campus (link) that are diversity-related, check out our Diversity at Inly page. If you have questions or comments about what multicultural education specifically looks like at Inly, you can reach the CDE by emailing diversity@inlyschool.org.

What is Diversity at Inly and Why Does it Matter?

DiversityWordle5As members of Inly’s Council on Diversity and Equity, we talk a lot about what diversity means at Inly. We hear questions from the community, and we ask questions of ourselves. Please read on for snippets of the ongoing conversation, enjoy the accompanying Wordle images, have a chat with someone who serves on the CDE, and come to the Parent Insight Event “Beyond Sticks and Stones” at 8:30 am on Friday January 31.

What does “diversity” mean at Inly?

DiversityWordle7“When we talk about what diversity and multiculturalism mean to Inly, we are talking about all kinds of diversity—racial, socioeconomic, gender identity, learning differences, and more. At our Council on Diversity and Equity meetings, we have focused a lot on the words we use, the questions we ask, and the values we prioritize. What’s our school’s culture? How do we make sure that every family and staff member feels safe and valued? How do we build on our Montessori roots to create a school that inspires children and families to be global citizens?” —Shelley Sommer, Head Librarian and Alumni Parent

“Like the mosaic of the Inly logo that hangs in the foyer of the main building, Inly is multi-faceted. It is made up of a diverse community of families, teachers, and staff with different backgrounds, life experiences, and beliefs. There is incredible richness to enjoy when we recognize that diversity and dig into it.” —Nancy St. John, Children’s House Assistant Teacher

Why does “diversity” matter to our students and our school?

“We embrace diversity and purposeful diversity education at Inly because we want to liberate kids from limiting thoughts and fears and open them to all of life’s richness and possibility.” —Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School and Alumni Parent

“Our mission statement is pretty powerful. It states that ‘Inly is a partnership of children, teachers, and families dedicated to the joyful discovery of each child’s innate capabilities and potential. Our community of learners inspires and nurtures children to become global citizens by embracing the philosophy and methods of Dr. Maria Montessori, in harmony with other compatible and innovative practices.’

“Why is that our mission? I think it’s because Inly has the courage to look at difference — something that scares so many of us — as a strength, and, more than that, as essential to individual, educational, and societal health. People who embrace difference in others are likely to look inside themselves with honesty, and to have the courage to know and accept themselves. In turn, they are likely to look out into the world, from that place of understanding and confidence, with open curiosity.” —Lory Newmyer, Board Member and Alumni Parent

“As Cheryl Duckworth writes in the Encyclopedia of Peace Education, “values such as global citizenship, personal responsibility and respect for diversity, [Montessori] argued, must be both an implicit and explicit part of every child’s (and adult’s) education. These values in Montessori education are every bit as crucial as the subjects of math, language or science.’” —Julie Kelly-Detwiler

What skills do students gain through diversity and multicultural education?

“When he came to speak with us about diversity at Inly three years ago, Robert Principe left us with a skill base he calls ‘multicultural competencies for students.’ This skill base includes communication skills, self-reflection skills, and ally skills, among others.” —Julie Kelly-Detwiler

“Diversity is a way to develop critical thinking skills. It’s a means to foster empathy. It’s a foundation for global citizenship.” —Liz Knox, Director of Admission and Alumni Parent

“Appreciating difference and commonality is who we are and what we do as Montessorians: we observe, we seek multiple perspectives, we attempt solutions, we try new experiences, we seek to know and understand our own narrative and that of others.” —Shannon Harper-Bison, Board Member and Current Parent

What are some of the diversity-related conversations happening around campus now?

“As a teacher, I am constantly encouraging students to take other people’s perspectives and to honor the differences they see in each other. So in that sense, diversity work happens every day in every classroom.” —Amanda Pillsbury, Upper Elementary Teacher

“The Inly Players’ Creative Team has been consulting with the Council on Diversity and Equity to plan out how we will capitalize on the teachable moments that producing Peter Pan provides us with.” —Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

“So far this year, six Inly adults and seven Inly middle school students attended two diversity-themed AISNE conferences. Conference workshops that the adults gained a lot from included ‘Books, Rehearsal, Action!: Disrupting Gender Role Stereotyping in Elementary School,’ ‘How Teachers and Parents Can Talk with Children about Issues of Difference,’ and ‘Cultural Humility — Using It to Learn about Self and Others Across Difference.’ Conference workshops that the students particularly enjoyed included ‘Our Common DNA Heritage,’ ‘Why We Love Rebels: Music, Identity, and Social Climate’ and ‘Future Global Leaders: Sua Sponte Forum.’” —Paran Quigley, Middle School Teacher and CDE Co-Chair

“A big theme of our professional development is ‘teachers teaching teachers.’ As a community, we’re made stronger by the individual knowledge and passion that our colleagues bring to the table. Members of the CDE have led recent workshops for our faculty on topics including inclusive classroom language, book resources for students that we have in our own library, and academic articles to discuss amongst ourselves.” —Jimmy Juste, Upper Elementary Teacher

For more information on the Council on Diversity & Equity, click here.