Last weekend, I attended the CAIS (Canadian Accredited Independent Schools) Chairs and Heads Conference (virtually, of course). During the conference, I had the pleasure of hearing and learning fromAnnahid Dashtgard. Annahid has over 25 years of experience designing systemic change initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion; her talk at the conference focused on creating diversity and championing inclusive schools.
One of Annahid’s messages that really resonated with me was this: What if our interactions with people whose identities are different from ours are influenced by unconscious biases that are hidden even from ourselves? How may we perpetuate discrimination against others, despite our best intentions? How can we develop an awareness of identity as a necessary layer of relationship-building for inclusive schools?
This is truly a moment for independent schools, many of which educate the next generation of leadership, to be at the forefront of change. The world is changing, and continuing to do things as we have always done them will not suffice in this new millennium.
Striving to create cultures of belonging is an ongoing endeavour - a journey that includes continuing awareness and skill-building. My colleagues and I learned from Annahid Dashtgard what we, as leaders of independent schools, can do to help our communities along this journey - and it starts with embedding equity and inclusion in all aspects of our curriculum, community and culture.
This year’s Pride Week is one example of how we are working towards ensuring that every Greenwood student knows that they belong and that this is a safe place for them to learn. We have made many other changes over the past two years to make our school more inclusive, such as:
auditing our admissions process;
providing unconscious bias training for staff;
establishing a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summer Institute group;
adding a greater variety of perspectives and voices to our curriculum; and
removing assessments on High Holy Days.
I feel incredibly proud of our Pride Week, and particularly of the work students have put into making this week meaningful. While I am not losing sight of the significant work ahead, I am heartened to know that our students want to make a difference, broaden their perspectives and build an inclusive and caring school culture.