A MESSAGE FROM THE HEAD OF SCHOOL
The following message is excerpted from a Head of School Update to families on June 7, 2020.
Last year, we chose the name Wellan to highlight our pedagogical approach. We strive to create a safe space that will allow students’ talents and motivation “to bubble up from deep inside.” We chose this year’s professional development focus—“Teaching Is A Work of Heart”—to highlight our passion
for connecting with students and supporting their individual interests.
Teaching from the heart and honoring what is uniquely special about each individual seem even more important today in the context of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. As educators, we stand together against racism in our society. However, speaking out as individuals or as a school community is not enough. Dismantling systemic racism in society requires taking action to effect change within our own institution. Wellan does not currently have a comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) curriculum that addresses racial injustice. We were in the early stages of planning a multi-year DEI and anti-bias curriculum development initiative when COVID-19 spread. The Board of Trustees also formed a DEI Committee this past year. Though work at Wellan has begun, we have much more work to do.
We need to acknowledge that each of us has internal work to do to root out deeply internalized racial biases. We need to act on the knowledge that, on a daily basis in our society, students of color, in particular Black students—and family members they love—live with the fear they may experience direct threats to their physical safety due to the color of their skin. We need to recognize that any work which empowers students to feel safe and comfortable in their own skin is the most important work there is. Breaking the chains of systemic racism will take courage and tenacity. It must be undertaken by us all. Wellan is committed to this vital work. I look forward to sharing information about our efforts and announcing opportunities for the school community to engage in conversation and action.
—Beth Black, Head of School
RESOURCES FOR EDUCATING OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN
Experts recommend limiting what children see on the news, as they may experience trauma they witness visually as if they were experiencing it directly. That does not mean hiding from them the fact that disturbing things are occurring, because they likely already have heard or sensed something is not right. Nor does it mean avoiding conversations about race or violence. Research has shown that even very young children form a cognitive bias toward their “in group,” or the people they consider to be like themselves. Talking about race early and often is important for children’s identity development and social understanding.
The following are just a few resources for talking with children about race and racial bias, along with resources for educating ourselves as adults, recommended by Wellan families and faculty. To recommend a resource, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
NPR: Code Switch
Books for Adults:
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Books for Kids:
The Case for Loving by Selina Alko
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
The Conscious Kid: Parenting and Education Resources through a Critical Race Lens
Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley: Anti-Racist Resources
Paché Montessori of Brooklyn, NY: Educational Resources and Actions to Take
ORGANIZATIONS TO SUPPORT
We asked Wellan families, faculty, and staff which organizations they have financially supported that do anti-racist work. See their recommendations below. If you don't see your favorite organization(s) listed, email us your own recommendations at email@example.com.
HELPFUL TERMS & DEFINITIONS
Place of Residence
An approach to education that focus on incorporating the histories, texts, values, beliefs, and perspectives of people from different cultural backgrounds.
An approach to education that focus on respecting and embracing differences and acting against bias and unfairness.
Identity: Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social/group identities.
Diversity: Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity, accurate language for human differences, and deep, caring human connections.
Justice: Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness (injustice), have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.
Activism: Each child will demonstrate a sense of empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.
Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen Edwards (2010)
A commitment to eradicating the unequal distribution of power based on race.
Ensuring that a variety of of social identities, including but not limited to those listed below, are represented within a particular context.
What the work looks like:
Identifying which social identities are under-represented in a particular context.
Actively seeking ways to increase representation of multiple social identities.
Tracking percentages over time.
Ensuring social justice such that the policies and practices of systems and institutions provide fair access to opportunities and advancement.
What the work looks like:
Identifying and removing barriers that limit participation or advancement based on characteristics of social identity.
Addressing existing inequities that are due to barriers that previously existed.
Regularly reviewing policies and policy implementation.
Ensuring a climate in which any individual or group is welcomed, respected, supported, and valued rather than a climate that is marked by social bias.
What the work looks like:
Being alert to unconscious and implicit bias.
Taking steps to counteract that bias.
Intentionally striving to create a welcoming climate.