Robert Greene, a nationally recognized consultant who specializes in organizational development and culturally competent systems, was recently invited to Park to share some insights into the theme of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and how it relates to academic and organizational excellence. Robert’s presentation challenged the audience to have a growth mindset to learn what diversity means, and to bridge ways to which we can achieve equity and inclusion for all. Robert reminded us that it is not always easy to navigate diverse communities, yet research shows that the rewards of incorporating diverse ways of thinking are tremendous for businesses and communities alike.
Earlier in the school year, Pamela Penna, Park’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction, presented “Academic Excellence: DE&I Lens in Curriculum.” She gave illustrative examples of where DE&I is integrated with the curriculum at each grade level. For example, in Pre-K, children explore family structures and configuration in books and discussion about “windows and mirrors.” In Kindergarten, a beautiful self-portrait activity called “This is Who We Are” explores the emerging recognition of race, skin color, and ethnicity. In Grade II, ethnic and cultural diversity around the world is studied through exploration of place, food, clothing and games/crafts, and many families from diverse backgrounds enrich this process of learning. In the Middle and Upper Divisions, students engage in critical thinking about stereotypes and assumptions and discuss how to put their learning into action through social justice.
Pamela also highlighted that on a school-wide basis, students and faculty discuss how equity and inclusion are key to being better citizens, community members, and individuals. The Park School curriculum supports that issues of diversity are deeply connected to academic excellence.
To be effective collaborators with our children in this work, the Parents’ Association DE&I Committee believes that parents in our community must also be engaged in an ongoing examination of our individual and collective assumptions and biases. This September, we conducted a survey of parents’ concerns and interests, and parents told us they were interested in discussing socio-economic issues and class. As a result, we are hosting parent discussions on this topic, and have shared articles, case studies, and knowledge from each other’s experiences as parents on how best to discuss these topics with our children. We have worked with Park’s leadership, including Cynthia Harmon, Dr. Liza Talusan (Director of DE&I), the librarians at Park, as well as outside facilitators, to have important conversations about how to support this work with parents at The Park School.
Part of the challenge of engaging in DE&I topics is that not only are our views on DE&I perhaps different, our understandings and expectations from DE&I work can vary in range. For many families these topics are an integral part of their family discussions, while others recognize the importance but are just beginning to learn the tools and language. The PA DE&I events hope to provide opportunities for all parents to engage and feel greater belonging to the Park community through these meaningful ‘growth mindset’ conversations.