Several members of our faculty attended the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference this past week. Below are some of the reflections they shared about the conference and their individual experiences.
I’ve been looking into Robin Wall Kimmerer’s idea of gift economy, which suggests that conceiving of something as a gift profoundly changes your relation to it. A certain level of gratitude comes when you start thinking of things like that, and to me, the People of Color Conference is the ultimate gift. POCC helps provide a sense of gratitude, community, and a safe space for sharing ideas, which are powerful elements that contribute to personal and collective growth. The diversity of the POCC, with 8500 people from various cultural backgrounds, creates a unique and dynamic environment. The richness of perspectives and experiences in such a diverse space can be both empowering and warm. There, I felt emboldened rather than restricted in discussing ideas. This overwhelming feeling I held deep within truly speaks to the inclusive nature of the conference, allowing for authentic dialogue without the need to police myself constantly. It is evident that the conference has left a lasting impression on me, and has left me with a desire and a commitment to bring my experiences and newly acquired knowledge back to our community here at HSH to help inspire a cycle of sharing and growth.
–Nicholas Gonzales, Learning and Behavior Specialist
I used to attend POCC as a younger educator primarily to learn about culturally responsive pedagogy and methods to diversify the schools in which I worked. As I become more established in my career and in the world of independent schools, I now attend POCC to seek mentorship and camaraderie from fellow leaders of color. More specifically for me, it is about connecting and forming a support group of female BIPOC leadership across the country, where we can all share our ideas and broaden our perspectives in solving complex, institutional challenges. While our schools and missions differ, there are always commonalities in how schools function. This year, 8,000 educators (primarily of color) descended upon the city of St. Louis to immerse themselves in several days of intensive professional development. The POCC conference affirms and renews a sense of responsibility and purpose in my role as an administrator. Thank you to our Board of Trustees for supporting our professional development growth!
–Maria Arellano, Assistant Head of School
Overall, it was an eye-opening and enriching experience. It was great to see a group of educators who reflected diversity and really had an emphasis on making diversity a focal point of education. I wished there were more actionable takeaways that I could implement in the classroom, but I appreciated and admired the variety of perspectives shared in the room. It felt like space was being held for healing for educators coming from primarily white spaces. I’m fortunate in the sense that I come from a diverse and welcoming faculty and school community, so there were times that I definitely felt I was looking through a different lens. This allowed me to open my mind and see the POC education experience from a different perspective.
–Tricia Ro, 5th/6th Math Teacher
Looking down at my wrist, I see a string of yarn tied with a knot. To me, it represents so much more. In my Multiracial affinity group, we tie the string around each other’s wrists to symbolize a connection to our shared community throughout time, space, and distance. As one of the few Black, Multiracial, and LGBTQ+ staff members at HSH, being one of many instead of one of the few was a life-changing experience. It gave me an opportunity to wake up, to be a learner, and to feel understood in a deep way that was restorative and exciting at the same time. From art projects to express identity to the ways in which community service can build character, the POCC workshops did not disappoint! Many people refer to this conference as a chance to fill your cup, and my cup is full with new ideas and relationships formed with hopes of changing the face of education and the way that people learn.
–Abi Hamilton, Community Life Coordinator
It was definitely a great place to go and network with other educators of color. I was taken aback at how many people were there; there were 8000 teachers there, and I was shocked to know that so many teachers of color were in private school education across the country. One of the main speakers in the general session spoke about how when we go to college, we learn about theories from mostly white theorists. She made the eye-opening point of making sure that the books you’re sharing with kids show them a diverse and true look at history. For example, rather than showing a single perspective on slavery, we should talk about the Black experience throughout history in a holistic way, and show people of color in a positive way as well as exploring the negatives so that every child can see themselves in the world. While I couldn’t always connect with everyone there, I felt that that was because some of the attendees were coming from a perspective where they were the only teacher of color in a dominant white space, and I felt lucky to know that our community was not like that at all. Knowing that there’s a place out there for educators of color to meet, join, and be able to talk about the challenges or strengths of your community, and to try to come up with solutions, is so vital. POCC provides a space you can always go to if you need the space or support to share your story.
–Ericka Franklin, 2nd Grade Teacher