On June 6, 2020, we shared a message from our Superintendent, Mr. Jeff, with our response to the worldwide protests sparked by the killing of Mr. George Floyd in the United States at the hands of police officers. The words written on June 6th were more than just words, they were the continuation of steps being taken at PAS POA towards making our school a more culturally responsive institution doing our part to create a more just, and anti-racist society.
As we strive to build a truly inclusive international community, we must invest in the collective efficacy of all stakeholders (faculty, students, and parents.) As a school, we are committed to exploring and owning our practices, and doing everything we can to live up to the IB’s mission of developing inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
To this end, on Friday afternoon, August 28, 100 staff members from our school community gathered for the first discussion in support of our school-wide goal:
As we deepen our focus on the SEL practices of social awareness and relationship skills, we promote our vision of being an exemplary international learning community nurturing confidence to embrace change by cultivating intercultural understanding and respect.
We are committed to intentionally embracing diversity by creating learning experiences and engaging in reflection to deepen an understanding of justice and create a more culturally responsive community.
The purpose of this initial meeting was to gain a common understanding of the terms used in the goal so that when we speak about these ideas and undertake actions aligned to them, we are all in agreement as to what they mean for us as individuals and our school.
Seventeen staff members have volunteered to be a part of our planning committee, and they served as facilitators of small groups to discuss: justice, privilege and meritocracy, diversity and inclusion, and equity and equality. During the breakout sessions, team members noted:
“[The ideas of diversity and inclusion] strongly connect to our values as educators”
“Talk[ing] about diversity opens many doors and allows the community to get in touch with a really important topic.”
“We can talk about this within our subject areas- it is good to see kids engaging and talking about topics that might not come up in their everyday lives.”
Each month, we will come together to discuss topics that support our understanding of our school-wide goal, and work to identify actions we can take to make it come alive. Upcoming topics include:
September: What is Cultural Responsiveness?
October: What is the difference: Not racist vs. Anti-racist
November: ‘Death by 1000 papercuts:’ Intro to Microaggressions.
December: Institutional Challenge Overview: What needs to change? What is my part?
Klaus Hensel, a member of the planning committee and our preschool counselor, offered this reflection on the work:
As a person who has chosen the well-being of others not only as a job but also as a life path, I think it’s of the utmost importance to try to understand the interdependence and interconnection that we have as part of this web of life that we call Earth.
On this web, what we say and do has an impact on ourselves, and also on others. With this in mind, I think that it’s in our power to connect to the realities of others so that we all can grow together. A popular quote says that we should “treat others the way you want to be treated” and I wonder what would happen if we treated others the way they want to be treated. I confess that I’m not very good with words because I feel that sometimes they don’t completely translate what I mean. Because of that I sometimes rely on wiser people than myself, and in this case His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama said it best:
“There is no denying that consideration of others is worthwhile. There is no denying that our happiness is inextricably bound up with the happiness of others. There is no denying that if society suffers, we ourselves suffer. Nor is there any denying that the more our hearts and minds are afflicted with ill-will, the more miserable we become."
We are hopeful that these conversations will be the basis of lasting change for our school community, and the ripple effect will be felt far beyond our walls.