Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and AccessibilityIn the 2018-2019 school year, our faculty and staff took conscious steps to work with the themes of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. We began the year with a two day, anti-bias training led by Jose Lugo and Sapphire DeJong of the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES). We explored the reality of implicit bias and its impact on us as educators and as people. We were introduced to Aliza Maynard’s ‘Culture Tree’, which explores aspects of culture and their emotional impact on trust. This served as an important tool for our work throughout the year.

Rebecca Ossorio, PhD, and Magdalena Toran facilitated five, three-hour professional development sessions using collaborative inquiry, a form of contemplative, descriptive, group reflection based on practices developed by the Prospect Center in Bennington Vermont. Similar to an Anthroposophic Child Study, collaborative inquiry invites the lived experience of the educator to reveal what needs to be seen and next rights steps.

As a group we explored the following themes and questions:

  • What was your experience of the anti-bias training? What did you notice in yourself during this time? What have you noticed since then?
  • What are the challenges to perceiving and working with bias in the curriculum?
  • What is the culture that students are being socialized into? In what ways are we consciously and unconsciously agents of socialization?
  • What are the implications of how we consciously and unconsciously socialize children?

These powerful and essential sessions revealed much about how we work as colleagues, as teachers, as community members, and as people. There was vulnerability, depth of interest, open sharing and an earnest desire for Hartsbrook to be a place where all children and families can find home.

To conclude the year, faculty participated in a workshop led by David Feinstein of the Eric Carle Museum, on diversity and representation in stories and books. We explored the theme of stories as ‘mirrors’ and ‘windows’ and the danger of a single narrative. We asked the questions: ‘What is my responsibility in my sharing of stories? How do I present a respectful narrative, one that avoids tokenism, harmful stereotypes, generalizations about a group of people, and inaccurate or outdated information?’ We were given tools for how to audit our current canon and to offer diverse representation in our stories and picture books. We left the workshop eager to deepen our ongoing practices around the stories we share. A book list of diverse stories and picture books was generated.

The 2019-2020 school year began with a diversity-themed book fair in collaboration with the Eric Carle Museum.  The Harstbrook faculty, along with Rebecca Ossorio and Hartsbrook parents, curated a book list.  Students in grades one through high school participated in the fair. Parents and community members attended and were able to purchase books for their friends and family, as well as for the school’s library.

A $5,000 grant from the Waldorf School’s Fund for the Diversity Awareness Program was awarded to Hartsbrook specifically to support the on-going, collaborative inquiry professional development process.  This year the faculty will work departmentally and as a whole faculty and staff with Rebecca Ossorio exploring the intention: To create a space for group reflection and continued development for faculty as you consider your role and the next right steps to take in addressing diversity, inclusion and equity challenges.

The IDEA committee is sponsoring a parent-led study group reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, and is working with parents and faculty on creating a safe and inclusive environment for trans, non-binary, and gender-expansive or creative students and faculty/staff.   Faculty and community members attend the fall Undoing Racism Workshop in Amherst.  Faculty and community members will attend the spring session of the same workshop.

Magdalena Toran
Early Childhood Chair