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Part 2: Steps towards Cultural Responsiveness and a More Inclusive School Community

Elisabeth Johnson | Admissions Coordinator Kristen Moreland | Instructional Coach

On October 28, our staff gathered for our second conversation geared toward achieving 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.

This month, we were honored to welcome Sociology professor and doctoral student, Moriah Johnson, to help us understand the meaning and impact of microaggressions, and how we, as educators can be aware of their presence in our class communities.

Microaggressions can be defined as “Everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” (Derald Wing Sue, PH.D.) This video, Teenagers discuss microaggressions and racism, helped provide additional background information and clear examples of microaggressions, preparing our staff to embrace and reflect on our speaker’s story.

To structure the debrief, our small group facilitators used Gary Singleton’s Courageous Conversations Compass protocol for the debrief sessions. Singleton says this about the tool:

I developed the Compass as a personal navigational tool to guide participants through these helps us to know where we are personally as well as to recognize the direction from which other participants come. Collectively, it leads us to a mutual understanding of our varied beliefs and opinions and helps us locate the sources of our emotions and actions or lack thereof.  (SECOND EDITION COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RACE:  A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. P. 29)

The compass is defined as follows: 

As they listened to the presentation from our speaker, participants were encouraged to notice where in their body they felt their response to our guest’s story, and dig into why they might have had that response. The second step of this process was to consider what ACTION their REACTION inspires. In the absence of action, this work sits at the intellectual level, without creating the conditions for real change.

Two facilitators shared their experience:

  1. My group……really dove into the idea of microaggressions on a school level as well as international school level, and how the context of where they are may impact their reaction. Everyone was open about their own experiences, as well as possible actions/paths that can be acted upon in the near future (with some long term hopes/goals as well!).

  2. We talked about how even a small shift in our minds can make a big difference, for example: stopping to watch a short video/read a post that was shared with us, taking time to reflect on our words/class assignments, being intentional with our materials… We also shared that this is work that begins in our youngest students and doesn’t stop at our oldest.

During our November meeting, the same groups will again gather to reflect on the progress they are making towards their personal actions. Our goal, as stated above, is for a full community shift, and though we know the progress will be slow, we are prepared for the journey of learning and unlearning, driven by the belief that change is possible.


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