Supporting Transgender Students in Single Sex Schools

NAIS

All-girls and all-boys independent schools face a unique moment of reflection as they consider policies to support openly transgender students. How might girls’ and boys’ schools stay true to their gender-specific missions while supporting students for whom that binary no longer applies? Join this online conversation with girls’ and boys’ school administrators and representatives from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS), and International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC) as together we reflect on current challenges and future opportunities for educators to support transgender and nonbinary students in all-boys and all-girls schools.

Recording of Webinar

Synthesis of Breakout Discussion Groups:

Supporting Transgender Students in Girls’ and Boys’ Schools Tuesday, November 15, 1:00 p.m. ET

How might your school stay true to its gender-specific mission while supporting students for whom that binary no longer applies?

● Multiple breakout groups wrestled with the existential question: “What does it mean to be an all girls school or all boys school?” ○ Discussions raised the ideas of strong communities, and single-gender schools as safe spaces for students to explore their identities and grow intellectually and socially. ○ How do these ideas converge with gender fluidity or a non-binary concept of gender? Can schools still create a safe space for transgender students to explore their identity and find their voice? ○ Some schools emphasized our commitment to our kids and the value of each of them within our schools and beyond, and to consider how their transition will impact their continued growth and development into adulthood, college, returning for transcripts, and more. ○ Overall comments across all breakout groups emphasized the need to support the student and keep them at the center, as opposed to creating hard and fast policies.

● Another thorny question that was raised was “Can it be inconsistent with a school’s mission to have a transgender student in the school?” ○ Depending on where the student is in their school career, can the school better serve the student by keeping them in the community or by helping them find a school where the mission is better aligned with their transitioning identity? ○ Some girls schools reasoned that there was mission congruence in aligning women living in a patriarchal culture with transgender individuals in a dominant binary culture.

● Some groups focused on the wording or underlying meaning of the school’s mission ○ Specific words and phrases pulled from mission statements, such as “to be rather than to seem”, creating a caring and diverse community, affirming the worth and dignity of every individual, can be explicitly used to rally support for students ○ With a mission statement such as “build fine young men, one boy at a time”, finding space for a transitioning student is challenging, but language focuses on the individual needs of each student, which creates room for interpretation.

● Based on Tony’s narrative, some schools mused on the difference between supporting the transition of students who are existing members of your community versus encountering transgender students in the admissions process. Most attendees thought there should not be a specific question in admissions applications to screen for transgender students. What have been the primary challenges to confront in having initial conversations around supporting transgender students in your school? What have been the most rewarding moments?

● Challenges ○ Shifting from a binary view of gender. How we understand what a girl or what a boy is. ○ Parental perception and expectations. They send their student to a school and the paradigm shifts. Not ready to have conversations with their young students about gender and sex. ○ Education of and communication with the boards of trustees. Using outside resources from experts (Gender Spectrum) or religious organizations (Episcopal School) is beneficial. ○ Admissions process when a student has already transitioned and the school may not know at the outset. ○ Boarding schools. Housing. Which floor does the student live on? Based on a discussion with a lawyer, the students are living on the floor of the gender with which they identified.

● Points to Consider ○ Go through the student’s experience minute to minute and analyze every aspect of your school to ask what can affect them during a transition. If we backtrack and experience our school through students’ eyes, then maybe we can relate with them when they’re exploring their gender expression even before they make the decision to transition. We want to support our students fully, and maybe this starts sooner than when a student comes to us with a firm decision to transition. Maybe more students need our support as they are questioning. ○ Anecdotally, the largest groups of students who are talking about transitioning are ages 4 – 6 years old. When we started to talk about the process, we thought we’d work more with older, high school students. With this younger age group, it raises the question of whether we can continue to serve this student well years after they transition?

● Initial Steps of One School Shared ○ We are gathering groups of faculty, staff, trustees to start an ongoing conversation about vocabulary, transitioning and gender fluidity. We hope to proactively learn about the gender spectrum and think strategically about our approach now, so we will be ready to help a student when they need our support (rather than reacting to the situation when it does arise). We’re thinking about the series of concentric circles of faculty we’d involve and inform so that a specific student is supported but also so that their privacy is respected. The better we prepare ourselves as a school community, the better we can support all of our students.

Finding Resolve After the Results

It is 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning, November 9. I have just arrived at my office, a bit earlier than usual after a sleepless night. A few hours before, I was on the phone with another friend — a school leader in another city — who said she could not stop vomiting and asked if I would pray with her. Before that, there were countless texts and calls throughout the night as people processed their waves of emotions.

At 7:16 a.m., a white male colleague came into the office for coffee. He looked at me and fought back a mixture of tears and anger as he relayed his night. At 7:25 a.m., a white female colleague came in and burst into tears. I hugged her tightly, and as I released, I looked up and a black female colleague was standing there, tearfully ready to be received. I stood in my office foyer until 8 a.m., in that same spot, as it filled with colleagues who needed a safe space. I could feel this coming during my drive in, so I had the counter prepared with breakfast treats next to the Keurig machine.
We readied ourselves for the start of school. I went down to the morning meeting location to greet all of my sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders as I do every week. When I rang the chime that signals the start of our day, they fell silent more profoundly than I had ever seen. I looked at 117 sets of eyes staring up at me from their cross-legged places on the floor. I fought back my emotion, and lost the battle, as I said, “If you had a night like mine, then you’re feeling all sorts of ways this morning. Turn to someone next to you and share with them how you’re feeling.” They quickly turned and formed duos or trios, tightly knit together.
I walked among them, and saw students leaned up against each other, holding each other, or looking at each other intently. One white male seventh-grader sat there with his lip poked out. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “This is how I feel. I’m sad.”
I passed a white female eighth-grader leaning back on her friend, looking up at me with eyes as big as saucers. “Why are your eyes so big this morning?” I asked her.
“I’m frightened,” she said.
Several students were in tears. I rang the chime, acknowledged the emotion in the room, and gave our call to action for the day:
“Today, of all days, let’s be the middle school that we say we are. Let’s be that school where you can feel however you feel and be however you are, and you are respected. Some of us are sad, or frightened or angry, and we get to be that. Some of us are excited, and happy, and hopeful, and we get to be that. Let’s try to understand each other better today. But let’s not make today the day that we are not careful with our words, or where we judge each other or ignore each other. Today, of all days, focus on what you can control — yourself, and carry yourself like one of the middle schoolers I love today.”
And that is how the morning after the election results began in my school.  I have experienced many elections, but I have never experienced an election result that scared the children more.

An Opaque Wall Becomes Clear

There are no two ways about it; this election season was a long and arduous one. For more than a year, we were steeped in this historic, and histrionic, run for president. We have watched our country grapple with some of its most pressing issues, and in the midst of the protracted campaign, the level of our national discourse dipped frighteningly below the bar. As we watched the campaign season in shock and shame, we had to come to grips with the fact that our country is more divided than we realized, along more lines than we knew could be drawn, and that voices on all sides have taken up the call of “silent no more.”
One only needs to watch the news, turn on CNN, log in to Twitter or Facebook, to see the rise in acts of hate and acts of protest on college campuses, on church grounds, in neighborhoods, and in secondary schools. This is not the tale of two candidates but the tale of (at least) two Americas, who suddenly find themselves meeting at the once invisible but opaque wall between them.

An Imperative to Broaden My Circle

There are 60 million Americans who were on the other side of that wall that I do not understand. I have stood next to them in line at the grocery store, and sat next to them in movie theaters and meetings. I have had polite conversations with them at dinner parties. Many of them I have never seen or heard; I have never walked in their neighborhoods or sat at their tables. I have no idea who they are or how they see the world. I thought I was in touch and connecting across differences.
But this election showed me that my circle is not broad enough. I know I have the freedom, and, now more than ever, the responsibility, to engage with those around me of all ages, faiths, races, genders, classes, and political orientations. After November 8, it is clear that we have work to do to realize the fundamental American dream — that out of the many, many stories that inhabit our country, we would find common ground that allows one to live one’s truth without invalidating someone else’s.

Dialogue: The Ultimate Civic Duty

After moving through the five stages of grief to arrive at that illusive sixth stage — empowerment — I find myself once again thankful that I am an American. Indeed, the luxury of a multitude of opinions and the right to express them are two of our most treasured American ideals. I know many of us have shied away from talking about the results for fear of negatively affecting our relationships with friends or coworkers. I have heard from people whose Thanksgiving tables looked and felt differently because of the way this election has divided families.
Now that the election is over, I implore us all to take up the challenge that it has brought to us — to dialogue honestly, deeply, and continually by sharing our stories, learning from each other, bridging our gaps of understanding, raising the level of discourse — that we might become a people more united, more compassionate, and truly, more careful with each other. This is not the work of the president, but the work of the people performing the ultimate civic duty. Now that we know who the next president is, let us show who we are, so there can be no mistake that making America whole again resonates with us all.

A Call to Educators: Model the Way Forward

In the days immediately following the results, children were raw, and so were the adults. One woman said to me that she talks about America’s emotional reaction during 9/11, and now she will talk about our emotional reaction on 11/9. Our campuses are abuzz with post-election noise.
As educators, we must model for our students the best way forward. We must engage them in fierce conversations, even when they don’t think they need to have them, so that they are present to the power of active listening. Students need to see our firm resolve and trust in the moral arc of our nation and our democracy, and they must see us engage intentionally and positively across difference. Let us make sure that our schools have diversity practitioners who are empowered and supported to do this important work. Let us ensure that our missions specifically mention our dedication to diversity, equity, inclusivity, and indeed, justice.
This is the time that our school leaders — from the head of school to the administrative team — must be out front and out loud in their commitment to a pluralistic culture and inclusive pedagogy. The thoughts and actions expressed in this nation, including in our own schools, in the wake of this election should be a wake-up call that the diversity work that we have sometimes questioned is without a doubt a necessary ingredient to our recipe for success — reaching our shared mission to educate responsible global citizens.
Remember that each of our presidential candidates was a student in someone’s elementary, middle, and high school at some point. What lessons did they learn there that could have informed some of what we saw as they campaigned? As educators, we have an obligation to take a strategic, systemic approach to creating equitable and inclusive campuses that nurture a spirit of civility, civic engagement, and multiple perspectives.
A president cannot divide us; only we can do that. Let us have the faith of a first-grader, who said, “I hope that Donald Trump helps a lot of people. That means everyone.” And on that, we can all agree.

15-0921-RodneyGlasgow-sm.jpgRodney Glasgow is the head of middle school and chief diversity officer at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland. He also chairs the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

Understanding the New Student Population

NAIS

When my children went back to school last month, I couldn’t help but notice the new faces in the audience during the morning assembly for parents and students. As a researcher, I always find it fascinating to see how national demographic trends are reflected in my children’s school, particularly in the younger grades.

That’s where demographic changes are occurring at a faster pace than experts previously expected, and these shifts are having a direct impact on the student population and enrollment numbers at independent schools.
Wondering what demographic trends your school should track? I suggest paying attention to the following four.

The Decline of the White Student Population

Consider a main finding of the 2010 Census: The number of white children had decreased by 4.3 million since 2000,according to the report “America’s Diverse Future: Initial Glimpses at the U.S. Child Population from the 2010 Census” by the Brookings Institution. This report cites three factors to explain the decline:
  • lower fertility rates of white women (1.9 births per woman, compared with 3.0 births per Hispanic woman),
  • low immigration numbers of whites (15 percent from 2000 to 2009, versus 78 percent for Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities), and
  • the aging of the white population (in 2013, the median age of whites was 42, compared to 28 for Hispanics, 33 for African Americans, and 36 for Asians, the Pew Research Center reported).
All of these factors indicate that the number of white children will continue to decline or register minimal gains for several decades. This trend is evident when looking at the changes in NAIS schools. The latest DASL numbers show the sharp decline in the white student population from 74 percent in 2005-2006 to 62 percent in 2015-2016.
These changes may be more dramatic depending on your school’s location. The NAIS Demographic Center projects that by 2021, the number of white students will decline in several metro areas:
  • San Francisco (-6.08 percent),
  • Los Angeles (-5.73 percent),
  • Greensboro, NC (-4.19 percent),
  • New York (-3.74 percent),
  • Chicago (-3.29 percent),
  • Seattle (-3.29 percent),
  • Atlanta (-3.03 percent),
  • Philadelphia (-3.03 percent),
  • Dallas (-2.97 percent), and
  • Washington, DC (-2.56 percent).
If your school is located in an area where the vast majority of students has been traditionally white, you may have some challenges achieving your enrollment numbers. To share an example, in 2013, when my daughter started   Pre-K, the graduating eighth-grade class in her school was 77 percent Caucasian, compared with only 46 percent in Pre-K. Indeed, I’ve seen an influx of new Hispanic and Asian families where I live, a change that takes me to the next two trends.

Hispanics: Born in the USA

While new immigration from Latin America continues to be significant, it has dropped since the middle of the last decade. As a result, the number of immigrants from Asia has surpassed that of Hispanic immigrants since at least 2009, as reported by the Pew Research Center. However, while the share of Hispanic immigrants has decreased, the rapid growth in the number of Latino births has guaranteed a steady increase in the Hispanic population.
In fact, U.S. births have been driving Hispanic growth since 2000, according to Pew. The number of Hispanic children increased by 4.8 million from 2000 and 2010, the Brookings Institution reported. This increase was also the reason that the nation’s child population didn’t decline in that period.
New Census projections estimate that by 2020, fewer than half of all children in the United States will be non-Hispanic White — remember that Hispanics represent an ethnic group and can be of any racial group, including Caucasian. By 2050, an estimated 31.9 percent of U.S. children will be Hispanic (up from 25 percent in 2015), and 39 percent will be non-Hispanic White (down from 52 percent in 2015).
demographics forecast.jpg

Private schools are a strong presence in many Latin American countries, so it may be easier to explain to Hispanic families the advantages of choosing an independent school over a public school. These parents can also be advocates for independent schools and help schools find more Hispanic families.
According to demographers, by around 2020, more than half of the children in the U.S. are expected to be part of a minority racial or ethnic group. At that point, Americans under 18 will be the front of a trend that the overall population will follow some 20 years later. By 2044, the Census Bureau predicts that no one racial or ethnic group will constitute the majority in the country.
But the new population also comprises Asian students, as we’ll see in the next trend.

The Newcomers: Asian Families

Historically, Asian American students have had an important presence in NAIS schools. In 2015-2016, they represented 10 percent of the total enrollment and 37 percent of students of color, the largest group among students of color, according to DASL.
demographics infographic.jpg
These growing numbers reflect the national trends. The U.S. Census reported that between 2000 and 2010, Asian Americans recorded the fastest growth of any racial group at 46 percent. Moreover, projections by the Pew Research Center indicate that the Asian American population will continue to grow more rapidly than the U.S. population overall, reaching 41 million in 2050.
Immigration is driving this growth. In 2012 alone, 74 percent of Asian adults were foreign born and international migration accounted for about 61 percent of the total change in the Asian American population from 2012 to 2013,according to the Pew Research Center.
What do these trends mean for our schools? Depending on the country of origin, the new Asian families may or may not be familiar with independent schools. You may need to explain what differentiates an independent school from other private and public school options and the advantages that your offerings have in developing children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Also, you may need to clarify certain school practices, such as participating in school events and fund-raising activities.

A Generational Divide? Millennial vs. Baby Boomer Parents

In April 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau released new numbers estimating that Millennials had surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. Millennials, born after 1980, now number 75.4 million, compared with 74.9 million Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964).
This means that soon the vast majority of current and prospective parents will be Millennials. Although it’s still early, experts see behavioral trends that differentiate Millennials from previous generations and may shape the way they select a school for their children. Below are some characteristics of Millennials:
  • Are used to 24/7 interactions, where “better, faster, cheaper, and customized” are the norms.
  • Most racially diverse generation in American history: 43 percent of Millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation
  • Most educated generation to date. However, many Millennials struggle with student debt.
  • Feel pressure to be great parents: 80 percent of Millennial mothers believe that it’s important to be “the perfect mom,” compared with about 70 percent of Gen X mothers. Also, 64 percent of mothers across age groups said that they believe parenting is more competitive today than it used to be, Time magazine reported.
  • Most likely among all generational groups to support school choice (75 percent), in particular charter schools which support is disproportionately high (85 percent), according to American Federation for Children and Beck Research.
  • Twice as likely as Boomers to say they most often look for instruction from Google and for advice from their social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and apps), according to Time.
  • More pragmatic as consumers. Before having children, 57 percent of their buying decisions are based on quality; after parenthood, this number is just above 50 percent, says MillennialMarketing.com.
These characteristics suggest that Millennial parents may be looking at a different type of school and education for their children — an option sufficiently innovative to prepare their children for an unknown future.

How Your School Can Respond to These Trends

Today, more than ever, it is vital to monitor the demographics of your school population and how they compare to those of your area. You can use the NAIS Demographic Center and DASL to create comparison reports. Use these questions as a guide:
  • What are the student population trends in the zip codes where you draw your students?
  • How is the racial/ethnic makeup of your pool of prospective families changing?
  • What are the projections of your student population in the next five years?
  • Is it time to seek out new markets to find students?
If your school is located in an area with an influx of newcomers, develop an understanding of the educational expectations of the new community members and a plan to reach out to them. Evaluate the channels you use for attracting, recruiting, and communicating with parents. Identify areas that may need fine-tuning. Do not assume that parents are familiar with the admission process and giving practices. Be transparent about the application process, and clearly explain the role of giving at your school.
When surveying parents, identify the key aspects, programs, and services that attract them to your school and ask how you are performing on each. Evaluate your strengths and areas for improvement. Understand how your school’s offerings fare against those of other types of schools in your market.
In the case of Millennial parents, your parent surveys can reveal how they differ from other generations of parents at your school. Your “coffee and chat” session may help you keep abreast of their needs and wants. You can also assess your communication channels to make sure they still fit their preferences or are the most effective ways to reach them. Consider ways to show them the value of the student experience at your school versus other options.
When it comes to planning for demographic shifts, some schools are out in front. On my children’s first day of school, for example, I caught a moment alone with the chair of the finance committee who told me that the school’s enrollment and finance committees had started discussing the school’s demographic trends and their impact on admission and finance. I was glad to hear they were already in back-to-school mode!

How to Deliver an Effective Presentation: Lessons from a Middle School Speech Contest

“Hi, my name is Beckett. You must be Mr. Selover.” He looked me in the eye and held out his hand for a firm handshake. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

As a frequent public speaker, I had been invited by a local charter school to judge a speech contest among their younger students. The school is outside of downtown Orlando, under some shady old-growth trees, with a well-worn parking lot and an unprepossessing entrance. Front door locked, with no attendant. I escaped the Florida sun through a side door and wandered the cool, dark, semi-deserted hallways, unsure of where to go… until I found a little knot of students, the boys in jackets and ties and the girls in dresses. Beckett, who looked to be about 12, saw me first, and stepped forward. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, too,” I said. The ice broken, the others introduced themselves. If you’re reading this, you’re likely an educator who has been surrounded by a crowd of preteens, so you know what that’s like. Their excitement carried me down the hall and into the contest room on a wave of enthusiasm. Speech contest: on.
I’ve been to hundreds of corporate meetings, seminars, and other events over the years. I’ve met and worked with dozens of big-name speakers and high-profile executives. And you’d be surprised at how few of them know to do what Beckett did — reach out, say hello, get things started. We’re all nervous with each other, a little bit shy, even people of great accomplishment. So a greeting, with some energy and a desire to connect behind it, means more than people realize. So does dressing up a little bit. What these students knew, and many adults don’t, is that a speech is an occasion. When you’re up in front of people, taking their time and asking for their attention, you owe it to them to step up and give your best.

The Genius in the Format

The administrator who had invited me to be a judge had found me by looking online. A few years ago, I was fortunate to be asked to speak at the local TED conference, where I talked about a worldwide public speaking series called PechaKucha Night (pronounced puh-CHAW kuh-SHAW). I organize the Orlando version of this event several times a year, not only hosting but coaching the speakers before their performances. PechaKucha is a bit like TED, but on steroids: Each speaker uses PowerPoint, but only 20 slides. The slides run automatically on the computer for 20 seconds each, and the presenter has no control. Unable to pause, go back, digress, or indulge in any of the other bad habits that make an audience squirm, they are onstage for precisely six minutes and 40 seconds, after which they cede to the next speaker.
PechaKucha (a Japanese word that roughly translates as “chatter” or “chitchat”) was invented by architects Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein about 12 years ago. From a small venue in Tokyo where they work and host events, it quickly spread around the world — PechaKucha Nights are now held in about 900 cities.
These nights are a chance to hear a variety of local speakers on any number of fascinating topics, but the real genius is in the format. With only 20 slides, and only about 50 words sayable in 20 seconds, the presenter is forced to not only be brief but also to be concise. It makes a huge difference. The compression of thought and ideas into this tight space causes the same explosion of meaning that’s found in haiku. As Dytham put it once, after all that cutting and pruning “all that’s left in people’s presentations is the poetry.” So a PechaKucha Night has one distinct advantage over any other speaking event, including TED: None of the presentations are boring. Or to put it more precisely, none of them give you that terrible feeling of trudging through a desert of bullet points with no horizon in sight.

The Elements of a Captivating Speech

Back at the speech contest, we were at a more traditional speaking event. There were 15 contestants, all speaking on the topic of the world’s dwindling supply of water and what to do about it. This was (pardon me for saying) a typical academic mistake. You’re putting a student at a terrible disadvantage with a topic like this, something requiring not just expertise that’s way beyond them but a highly developed ability to package that knowledge in a way that resonates with an audience.
I’ve actually had speakers at my events talk about the world’s supply of water, and there is no drier topic. A fair number of the students did what you’d expect — they went to Wikipedia and found a bunch of facts. This, too, is something many adults are guilty of doing. Many people view communication as a conveyor belt: Put a pile of facts on one end and send it off to the audience. But facts are not enough. You need to have a point of view that the facts are in support of, and more than that, you need to convey passion and purpose behind that point of view.
Yet several of the students gave excellent speeches despite the fairly deadly topic they’d been saddled with. During their presentations, they:
  • talked about water in their own lives;
  • gave details about their families and their neighborhoods;
  • shared their feelings and experiences;
  • used the subject as a starting place for a broader discussion;
  • structured their talks with a clear beginning, middle and ending; and
  • made sure that both the start and the finish were dramatic and interesting.
The beauty of a well-done speech is that it doesn’t have to be on a timer. In fact, you’re unaware of the time passing and it’s over too soon. That’s how it was for our three winners, Karmelyn, Cortez and — you guessed it — my friend Beckett, who came in a strong third. Each of them gave the audience a clear sense of themselves and their sensibilities. I share this advice with the speakers I coach: People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
After the contest, the students and I talked about how all of the above elements make a good presentation. We also discussed the other lessons PechaKucha teaches: Focus on your topic, have a clear goal (what you want the audience to know, to feel, or to do), and organize the presentation clearly around that goal. All good lessons. But when I think back on it, the most memorable lesson of the day was the one I relearned from Beckett. Step forward, hold your hand out, look somebody in the eye. Don’t make a speech — make a connection.
Eddie Selover is a marketing communications professional, a life coach, and an award-winning public speaker. 

After the People of Color Conference, 10 Guideposts on the Path Toward Equity and Inclusion

NAIS

 

Tampa, Florida — People naturally walk in circles when they’re lost. That’s the finding of researchers who conducted several experiments: One group trekked through the middle of a forest, another group hiked across the Sahara Desert, and others were instructed to walk blindfolded for 60 feet. No matter the scenario, the results were strikingly similar, Gyasi Ross, father, essayist, speaker, activist, and lawyer, outlined to more than 2,000 rapt attendees in his session at the 28th NAIS People of Color Conference, December 3–5. The evidence shows that continual visual cues are crucial to point the way forward.

Today, we appear to be spinning in circles as pernicious cycles of discrimination, injustice, and violence ravage communities across the globe. Yet in the midst of despair, there are moments of hope. Each year, PoCC is such a moment.
This year at PoCC, we all saw a bright visual cue when three NAIS leaders, Board Chair Katherine Dinh, Interim President Donna Orem, and Vice President for Equity and Justice Caroline Blackwell, shared the stage with more than 20 heads of color at NAIS member schools — and honored the heads’ achievement and service. The panoramic snapshot sparked huge buzz on social media.
Cues, or guideposts, can take many forms. Here I share 10 additional guideposts — for individuals, schools, and communities — that I spotted at PoCC.

Guideposts for Individuals

An awareness of our hidden biases. We all have unconscious attitudes that we bring to situations, particularly when we face crucial decisions like hiring and voting. We must uncover our biases and then take practical steps to counter them, explained Mahzarin Banaji, coauthor of the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. Consider her example of a man who found a creative way to handle his unconscious attitudes during freewheeling conversations in meetings. He sketches a picture of the group and writes each person’s name at his or her place around the table. During the meeting, he jots down a few notes next to the name of the person speaking.
Now, instead of automatically attributing ideas he likes to individuals he likes, “he is able to give credit where credit is due,” Banaji said. Humans have an innate desire to learn and improve, she told attendees. Banaji offers a tool for all of us to understand our biases at implicit.harvard.edu.
An acknowledgment of the deep hurt of discrimination, racism, and injustice. People of color report that racial microaggressions and discrimination take a toll on their physical and mental well-being, said Howard Stevenson, author of Promoting Racial Literacy in Schools: Differences that Make a Difference. “We tend to avoid or overreact to face-to-face racial conflicts,” Stevenson said, adding that the legal dismantling of racism won’t heal people’s trauma. Moving forward requires racial literacy, which begins when individuals share their personal stories about race. In his session, he asked us to “tell the person next to you what you heard about race in your childhood.”
A desire to draw out the unique gifts that lie within each one of us. Teachers and mentors can be valuable guides, but students and mentees must have the will to contribute their talents. Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet, told us about such an experience while she was teaching. A boy diagnosed with autism was isolating himself in the corner of the classroom, not speaking to classmates or to her. After she took an interest in him and taught him her craft, he asked to deliver a poem he wrote to the class — and received a standing ovation from everyone.

Guideposts for Schools

An intentional, nurturing approach when recruiting and retaining young faculty of color. When recruiting, it’s vital to “target and build relationships with local colleges, be honest with candidates, and don’t assume that people of color want to do diversity work.” These recommendations come from Brandon Jacobs of The Hill School (Pennsylvania) and Ashley Bradley of The Baldwin School (Pennsylvania), who conducted interviews with several young faculty of color.
When it comes to retention, Jacobs and Bradley recommended that “a school prove its dedication to diversity through committees, professional development, its strategic plan, curriculum, and student groups; establish and support faculty of color groups; and support professional and personal development” for faculty of color. All their interview participants cited the importance of mentoring.
A new institutional paradigm that results from asking critical questions. Marin Horizon School (California) developed a unique “framework for institutions.” It’s designed to push beyond an “exclusive community” and “symbolic change” toward “analytic change” of critical thinking and “structural change” of executing, according to the school’s presenters Stevie Lee, Angela Evans, and Beth Anderson. Having a diversity director in name only and a diversity committee without a clear mission or funding are examples of change that is merely symbolic, they noted.
At Marin Horizon School, critical thinking on inclusion and equity began by everyone asking investigative questions, including the following:
  • “What pictures are on the walls of your public spaces?”
  • “How do you refer to families?”
  • “What lesson plans do you describe or feature in open houses?”
  • “What holidays do you honor or ignore?”
  • “What do your calendar priorities speak to?”
  • “Who is on what committee?”
  • “What experiences/traditions/events cause students to be reminded that they are different?”
Presenters also pointed to several actions Marin Horizon School has taken, including “empowering the diversity director; retooling events such as class parties, parent presentations, and school-wide brochures; and conducting a curriculum analysis and innovating.” The new paradigm is helping the school on its “path to authentic and productive inclusion and equity.”
 
An immersion model to attain cultural proficiency. Unlike typical one-day workshops, immersion programs require being steeped in diversity and cultural proficiency work for a sustained period of time, said Lewis Bryant and Ross Clark of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (Massachusetts). They cited Peggy McIntosh’s SEED Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) as an example.
BB&N has developed a multifaceted immersion model. For example, some faculty have formed a monthly book club; after reading part of a diversity book, participants come with a question and highlight something new they’ve learned. In addition, faculty can take part in summer institutes and the White Privilege Conference. They can design a freshman seminar focusing on cultural proficiency. Also, they can join the school’s cultural proficiency think tank.
Student immersion activities include holding four community-building assemblies and sharing personal stories. Some students can work with a local Boston group to learn how to facilitate discussions on diversity issues. All of BB&N’s immersion initiatives were borne out of survey data collected from the school’s stakeholders.

Guideposts for Schools and Communities

A push for girls and students of color to pursue careers in STEM. “We’re operating with one-third of the potential in the workforce,” said Mae Jamison, the world’s first woman of color to go into space. This needs to change, she added, because professionals in the STEM fields determine the topics we cover, the data sets we use and discard, the national and global problems we solve, and the order in which we solve them. In a warning sign, research shows that females report feeling the most discouraged from choosing STEM careers by their college professors, Jamison said.
A comprehensive understanding of history. We have to embrace all of history, the good and the bad, Ross said. This means exposing “the skeletons,” including the injustice toward Native Americans, and it means having meaningful discussions about history. “You can choose to acknowledge its importance, or you can wait until it shows up at your doorstep,” Ross said as he alluded to recent events at the University of Missouri. “How do we make history a tool of liberation in our schools?” he asked us to consider.
A design-thinking template to engage in difficult conversations about race. As discussed in one session, design thinking is outlined in four steps: explore, identify, generate, and learn. We explore by empathizing with others’ stories. Then we identify key issues and reframe with “How might we…?” Next we brainstorm answers to the question and suspend judgment. Then we learn and iterate toward improvement.
Presenters Paul Kim and Tom Thorpe from Colorado Academy (Colorado) shared an example of a key question: “How might schools and educators bring more voices into conversations about racism, privilege, and oppression?” Colorado Academy decided the answer was to screen the documentary “I’m Not Racist…Am I?” about how the next generation is going to confront racism. In these discussions, the group observed community norms adapted from NAIS. They include:
  • Be fully present.
  • Lean into discomfort.
  • Assume positive intent from all speakers.
  • Use the “I” perspective.
  • Take risks, be raggedy, make some mistakes – then let go.
As the facilitator in the documentary put it after a teenager got emotional and ran out of the room, “It’s OK to leave the room, but you must come back in.”
The presenters said that since Colorado Academy has engaged in these conversations, the school feels like “a radically different place … in terms of race and racism.”

Guidepost for Individuals, Schools, and Communities

Ongoing conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The importance of continual conversations among individuals and within schools and communities echoed throughout the conference. To that end, I invite you to share your reflections from PoCC and what your school is doing to address inequity.

Conclusion

We must be persistent warriors to keep walking on the path toward equity and inclusion in our schools and communities. Educators, onward!

How America’s Schools Are Going Green — and How Yours Can, Too

NAIS

Independent schools are playing important leadership roles in creating more environmentally sustainable schools. That’s according to a 2015 analysis by Inverness Associates that sought to map the state of green schools nationally. Our firm surveyed more than 25,000 school principals in 2013 and 2014, approximately a fifth of the nation’s total. The response rates from three parallel surveys allow for statistically meaningful generalizations about the strengths, weakness, challenges, and opportunities all schools face.

Key Findings

Comparative analysis of public and private school responses revealed many similarities. For example, both public and private schools appear to be more focused on areas such as energy efficiency and waste management/recycling than on incorporating environmental education in the curriculum.
Significantly, however, independent schools appear to be more advanced in incorporating environmental education and sustainability in almost all categories measured.  The following are among the factors contributing to independent school leadership:
  • strong commitment from school heads faculty and students;
  • a governance model that allows for strategic changes in direction;
  • school mission or green mission statements that include sustainability;
  • adequate resources directed to green initiatives;
  • a culture of innovation; and
  • a sense of civic purpose.
Public schools are challenged by limited resources, state-mandated high-stakes testing, large-scale bureaucracy, and political sensitivity. Independent schools face their own challenges, however, and often do not work to achieve advantages of scale. Meanwhile, some public school districts, such as Virginia Beach, Virginia; Boulder, Colorado; and San Francisco, California, are achieving profound changes, especially in building green schools, healthy operations, and renewable energy.
green schools graphic 2.png

Detailed Findings

Here are some specific findings the surveys revealed:
  • Interest in environmental sustainability is higher in independent schools than public schools (42 percent vs. 29 percent in public schools are interested to a very great extent/great extent).

 

  • Compared with public schools, independent schools have a greater presence of green teams and green policies (54 percent and 48 percent, respectively, vs. 51 percent and 37 percent for public schools). But fewer independent schools have a sustainability coordinator (27 percent vs. 39 percent for public schools).

 

  • Two-thirds (64 percent) of public schools spend less than $1,000 a year on green activities, such as assembly speakers, field trips, and professional development. A third of independent schools (32 percent) report spending $10,000 or more.

 

  • Environmental concern and engaged faculty and students account for independent school success (80 percent and 76 percent, respectively). In public schools the principal’s role is relatively more important (60 percent vs. 55 percent).

 

  • Waste reduction as well as recycling and composting are well developed in many independent and public schools (93 percent vs. 81 percent). Independent schools lead the way in LEED buildings and with renewable energy (26 percent and 31 percent, respectively, vs. 11 percent and 15 percent for public schools).

 

  • The school garden movement and nutritious, local, organic food have caught on in independent schools and to a lesser degree in public schools (83 percent and 44 percent in independent schools, respectively vs. 57 percent and 19 percent in public schools).

 

  • The integration of environmental education across the curriculum is just beginning. Strikingly, 10 percent or fewer independent and private schools define environmental literacy, require environmental education of any kind, or assess its impact (8 percent, 7 percent, and 10 percent in independent schools, vs. 7 percent, 5 percent, and 9 percent in public schools).

 

  • An area where independent schools are especially strong is in integrating environmental education into the wider school program, through outdoor learning experiences (79 percent vs. 50 percent for public schools), service learning projects (73 percent vs. 41 percent), and using the campus as a learning laboratory (70 percent vs. 38 percent).

 

  • Public and private school principals alike report that their key challenges are lack of time, lack of funding, and inadequately trained personnel (68 percent, 73 percent, and 39 percent for public school principals vs. 70 percent, 64 percent, and 35 percent for private school principals). State mandates and teacher workload are challenges especially cited by public schools (54 percent and 73 percent).

 

Applying the Research

Here are specific steps all schools can take to strengthen their engagement with environmental education and sustainability:
  1. Provide board and head leadership and make sustainability a top priority.
  2. Benchmark your school’s performance using the Inverness Associates survey.
  3. Promote your successes on your website, in your marketing and admissions materials, and in the media.
  4. Measure your footprint using a carbon calculator.
  5. Quantify and publicize your annual savings.
  6. Adopt green operational policies, such as green purchasing plans and green cleaning materials.
  7. Define environmental literacy; for example, see the North American Association for Environmental Education.
  8. Incorporate environmental education across the curriculum.
  9. Assess students’ achievement as environmental stewards.
  10. Participate in the Green Ribbon Schools program, the national awards program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
  11. Become a member of the Green Schools Alliance, one of the largest organizations devoted to environmentally sustainable schools.
  12. Join the National Green Schools National Network annual conference.
And remember, green schools offer a “triple bottom line.” They save money, improve health, and boost achievement.

Methodology

The surveys were designed to assess sustainable schools as defined in Greening America’s Schools and Greening 2.0 (NAIS 2012 and 2013, respectively). In addition to being well organized, these schools share “five foundations.” The schools
  1. use resources efficiently;
  2. focus on healthy operations;
  3. offer an ecological curriculum;
  4. provide nutritional food that is local, seasonal, and healthy; and
  5. develop environmental stewards.
An initial 2013 survey of 1,879 independent school principals, supported by NAIS and 14 state and regional associations, received a 36 percent response rate from school heads in 46 states and Washington, D.C.  In 2014, the survey was expanded to 7,703 public schools in California, followed by a survey of 17,500 public schools in 12 representative states — Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts.
Although the response rates were lower (7 percent and 6 percent) in the public school surveys, they still allow for generalizations that are valid and reliable. We should note that generalizations are based on the perceptions of the school principals. Copies of the survey reports are available at invernessassociates.org.

15-1208-PaulChapman-sm.jpgPaul Chapman is executive director of Inverness Associates, an educational consulting group that promotes green schools that embrace environmental sustainability in their facilities, operations, and program. Previously, he served as head of school at the Head-Royce School (California).