Conference write-up provided by Señora Fiori.
Attending this conference has been one of the highlights of my school year so far. The experts in the field made it easy to understand why diversity, equity & inclusion are so important for independent schools. During my first session, “Educating for Equity -- Part 1: Why Race Matters,” Ali Michael, Ph.D., from Princeton University, explained that race matters in education because it helps us build healthy affirming classrooms at the systematic and personal level. Our goal as educators is to have racial humility, not racial proficiency. Dr. Michael also pointed out that it isn’t sufficient to have a multicultural curriculum to build an anti-racist classroom. Furthermore, we need to know the difference between racist talk vs. racial talk to talk about it.
The second session I attended was “Affinity Groups within AISNE Member Schools”. This session was also very informative; the presenters talked about the different types of affinity groups other schools have and how they run them. They also explained that affinity groups share similar experiences; these experiences cannot be simulated by reading books or watching movies. Research says that it helps to create healthy identities for minority groups living in white space communities. I also learned that schools set diversity, equity and inclusion goals every year. Adult affinity groups are also encouraged and promoted in those communities.
For my third session, I went back for the second part of “Educating for Equity: Racial competencies.” Dr. Michael led us in discussions about how racism manifests in schools and what we can do to work beyond the curriculum. Racial stress is a matter of competence not character (Dr. Howard Stevenson). Stereotype threat is a phenomenon in which a person’s concern about confirming a negative stereotype can lead that person to underperform on a challenging assessment or test. This phenomenon has been demonstrated in laboratory research and in classroom settings, as well as in non-academic contexts (Spencer et al., 2016). Stereotype threat can affect anyone, depending on the context, but students who identify with groups that are underrepresented in a field or at an institution may be especially vulnerable to its effects. The cues and triggers of the stereotype threat for example is the constant reference to who is “smart" and/or the near absence of minorities in a program, class, position or field, microaggressions from teachers, being the only one in advanced classes, not seeing oneself in the curriculum in positive ways, and not being the dominant culture and the constant reminder of it. Empirical tests show that the stereotype threat widens the achievement gap. What we can do as educators is track disproportionality, teacher expectations, Eurocentric curriculum, biased tests, stereotype threat, aversive racism, and racial microaggressions. We must create a fair learning environment for all of our students. Dr. Michael suggests a) promote a growth mindset about intelligence, b) provide feedback that motivates students to improve, and c) foster a sense of belonging.
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the conference.