Diversity: Who Is Here, Who We Are Together

May 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

posted by Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school

It is time….to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. ~Maya Angelou

A few weeks ago, I sat in the sunshine on the porch and met with a prospective parent.  Her son is going into fourth grade and has already finished the “admissions” process here.  After his second visit, he had told his parents that kids at our school get to be themselves.  And she shared with me that she experienced the exact same feeling during the Circle and math group she observed yesterday morning.  What does that mean “get to be themselves”?  That each child is seen and understood for who he is, for who she can be.  That children get the opportunity to know and love themselves because they feel known and loved in all their uniqueness.  This is the essence of our school.

The weekend before, the Parent Group’s Diversity Committee had its fourth meeting of the year.  We discussed how this experience of being seen is what makes Randolph School such a wonderful community.  And we also talked about how what children see around them matters, too.  Each one of us is different from every other human being, and, at the same time, we share experiences that connect us.  Children come from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, religious experiences, family structures.  They have different learning styles, interests and passions, strengths and challenges.  Children need to actually see their experiences and identities reflected in the faces, environment, and curriculum around them.  That helps us feel known and understood, too.

Diversity can sometimes be a buzzword that schools use to describe who is in the community.  But diversity includes both who is here and who we are together.  It also relates to the ideas and topics we study and investigate, the books we read, the poems we hear, the songs we sing.  It is embedded in one important aspect of the mission of the school – “to foster the development of the school community and its connection to the wider world.”  We need to work hard to improve diversity at Randolph in all its forms.  The Diversity Committee’s efforts are helping us strengthen our commitment and come up with practical approaches, as well.  For example, a recent anonymous donation is making it possible for the school to offer four weeks of summer camp scholarships to children of color with financial need.  This initiative and others will make us a stronger community.

We still live in an unjust world where people are treated differently or even oppressed based on the color of their skin, their religion, their gender, their class, their sexual orientation, their physical ability, and so much more.  We have an ethical responsibility as a school educating children.  In fact, there is a strong history and tradition of social justice work in progressive schools.  Dialogue matters.  Everyone’s voice and experience matters.  We want our children to not only be able to live in a multicultural society, but to actually work to change it for the better, to make our world more humane and more just for everyone.  We want them to be able to connect with, and most importantly, to value and respect the people they encounter in their lives, those who might be similar to them and those who are so very different.  There is something we can appreciate and learn from every individual child, teacher, parent, and friend, especially when we honor all of who she is and all of who he can be.  Especially when we feel accepted and loved.

By the way, our faculty has been discussing diversity at our school and has read some thought-provoking articles.  Check them out…

Alisa Algava graduated from Bank Street’s Leadership for Educational Change program in 2008. For the past 15 years, she has taught and learned in public, private, and charter schools in NY, NJ, and RI. She has posted on the Alumni Blog about her experiences leading and learning in a small progressive school. Alisa loves learning. She loves moderating The Alumni Blog. And she really loves her nephew.

Entry filed under: dialogue, diversity, equity, families, teaching tolerance.

A “Lead-Able” Moment…With Elephant June 10! Tar Beach and BSCAA Awards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

An Online Conversation

Join the conversation among Bank Street College alumni blogging on education policy, practice, and point of view. Explore issues, ask questions, share what's actually happening in our classrooms, schools, museums, and communities. To submit a post, please send it to: alumni@bankstreet.edu.

Your Voice

Post your own opinions about teaching, learning, children, politics, special education, school reform, play, the standards movement, student teaching, museum education, leadership, block building, morning meeting, curriculum mapping, collaboration, isolation, benchmarks, bilingual classrooms, social-emotional development, the arts...right here on The Bank Street Blog!

To leave a comment on a posting, please click on the "comment" link beside the posting date. Comments will be reviewed before they appear.



Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author
Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
Ted Wells ‘07, 4th grade teacher at The Park School, Brookline, MA
Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

%d bloggers like this: