Creating an inclusive, welcoming environment for all members of the school community
Oak Grove’s committee for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) met in early October to welcome new members and shape our hopes for this school year.
Our work as a DEIB committee is rooted in creating an inclusive, welcoming environment for all members of the school community and in listening and asking questions, to learn from and about one another. We understand that an essential responsibility of educators and parenting adults is to foster in children a positive self-identity, empathetic interaction with people from diverse backgrounds, and the skills to recognize and address bias and prejudice through awareness and personal action. We adults need to be able to respond to students’ concerns and, even without waiting for children to ask questions, to initiate age-appropriate, supportive activities and discussions. We also need to help older students learn to stand up for themselves and others in the face of discriminatory actions, and to navigate these challenging times through learning strategies for following breaking news responsibly, processing the escalation of conflicts in the wider world, and taking care of themselves and others emotionally.
Currently, our anguish at yet more violence and war magnifies the importance of this work. DEIB work emphasizes guarding time for the profound and long-term inward work needed for each of us to come to terms with our own feelings, attitudes, and behaviors towards people different from ourselves, and to integrate an anti-bias lens into our teaching and parenting so that we’re better prepared to nurture students’ growth.
Integrating an anti-bias perspective is a school-wide commitment to fostering positive relationships in a world full of division. According to the Anti-Defamation League,
“Anti-bias education is an approach to teaching and learning designed to increase understanding of differences and their value to a respectful and civil society and to actively challenge bias, stereotyping, and all forms of discrimination in schools and communities. It incorporates an inclusive curriculum that reflects diverse experiences and perspectives, instructional methods that advance all students’ learning, and strategies to create and sustain safe, inclusive, and respectful learning communities.
“A basic tenet of anti-bias education states that bias is learned. From their earliest days of life, children receive messages about their own identity and the identities of others. These messages are often subtle and learned unconsciously – from family, friends, school, and the media – but they can have a lasting impact on people’s self-image and worldview. When diversity (differences based on race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, language, culture, learning style, socioeconomic class, family structure, body type and ability) is not valued or respected, harmful behaviors like name-calling, bullying, and social exclusion can emerge.”
At Oak Grove we are committed to taking a systemic, proactive approach that integrates anti-bias principles into all aspects of our culture, policies, and pedagogy, including:
- Anti-bias curriculum and resources for teachers in preschool through high school, used as an underpinning perspective which permeates the educational program.
- Staff professional development in areas of bias awareness, anti-bias education, and social-emotional learning.
- Student leadership training and opportunities to develop ally behaviors.
- Educational forums and community events for all parenting adults.
- Ongoing, school-wide commitment to promoting a culture of respect, inclusion, and belonging.
- DEIB Committee projects during the last two school years, continuing this year, include:
- Annual participation of three high school students in the National Association of Independent School’s
- Student Diversity Leadership Conference, with two staff members concurrently attending the NAIS People of Color Conference.
- School-wide partnership with Seeds of Belonging, a local initiative to support anti-bias education in early childhood for educators and families in the Ojai Valley.
- Workshops with Benjamin Mertz, a musician and racial and social justice advocate, for Oak Grove families, staff, and Board members.
This year, the DEIB Committee created a Discussion Group which will meet periodically to share a provocation and talk together, with the goal of unpacking our own histories, assumptions, biases, and learning. We will connect and reconnect through sharing ideas, stories, resources, and information, including awareness of how our own identities and experiences shape perspectives we hold. Each session will focus on an aspect of our diversity, including gender/sexuality, neurodiversity, family structure, and socioeconomic differences.
Dates will be published in ParentSquare, and we invite you to join us for inspiration, learning, and connection.
Differences do not create bias. Children learn prejudice from prejudice – not from learning about human diversity. It is how people respond to differences that teaches bias and fear.
-National Association for the Education of Young Children