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Y[our] DEI Update Dr. Carlos Hoyt Reflects on Year 1

The hope of the world is in our Schoolhouse—

—studying and playing; building academic, emotional, and civic skills; and stretching out towards the future—a future that will be made better by our students' presence and influence. What an opportunity, what a responsibility, what a joy it is to be able to foster intellectual curiosity and empower meaningful contribution in so many potential antigens for all that ails the world. And how vital it is, how historically imperative it is to support each and every one of them in learning how to see across and through socially constructed barriers, understand and employ empathy, and embrace the principle and practice of honoring differences.

Despite the massive disruption we experienced when we had to shift our energies to adapting to learning remotely in March, Belmont Day ended the inaugural year of having a director of equity and inclusion with a list of inclusivity advancements worth reflecting on.

Noteworthy initiatives underway in five areas:

  • faculty training
  • curriculum
  • policy and practice
  • parent engagement
  • student voice and belonging

This update is decidedly tell me and show me.

There is a natural and legitimate desire on the part of members of any school community, especially among parents of younger students, to be able to see and understand as clearly and concretely as possible what their children are experiencing every day from early morning to late afternoon, five days a week, ten months a year (possibly for ten years) under the instruction and guidance of people who are not their parents.

This desire is often particularly strong in areas of school programming that involve the building of social skills and the exploration of identity, culture, values, and justice. To give you the most open window into what we have actually done, are doing, and hope to do regarding DEI work at BDS, there are lots of links in this update to, for example, the actual agenda used for faculty professional development, actual materials developed and used this year in the beginning stages of developing our DEI curriculum, actual practice and policy statements created this year, and more.

You are welcome to explore it all at your leisure and to whatever depth suits you.

There will be no quiz! Instead, you may think of this as more of a quizlet, a way to learn about DEI at Belmont Day. This is not a comprehensive update. You might read this and wonder what else we did or will do related to this or that area of DEI work. You do not have to wonder silently. Instead, as you take in the information presented here, I invite you to think interactively.

What resonates as reassuring and encouraging?
What do you want more information about?
What didn’t we get to this year that you hope is near the front of the line for the fall?
What is your DEI update—what are you reading, talking about as a family, and viewing related to social identity, social bias, and social justice?
What do you most hope for in terms of our faculty’s readiness to provide education and care regarding the trio of challenges we’ll return to in the fall: COVID-19, race-based atrocities and injustice, and an upcoming election that promises to be exceedingly divisive?

As always, please feel free to contact me at choyt@belmontday.org with responses to these questions or for anything at all.

Updates in Five Key Areas

Preparing Faculty Through DEI Professional Development

Designed and facilitated four required Friday afternoon professional development workshops on DEI and an all-day exploration of race.

Engaged in collaborative teaching with colleagues and their students. Topics covered:

  • learning about social identity, social bias, and social justice
  • exploring race and racialization
  • individual and grade team consultation
  • providing book reads
  • problem-solving class group challenges that centered on social identity and honoring differences

Created a Google Classroom DEI resources site to share material on these topics:

  • empathy
  • benefits of diversity
  • racism
  • teaching resources
  • metacognition
  • pedagogy
  • worldview
  • socioeconomic status
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • gender
  • ability
  • age
  • physical appearance
  • family and heritage
  • social Identity, social bias, and social justice

In the fall, these resources will be shared with parents through the new Veracross Parent Portal.

The DEI Ally Pact

In the coming year, in addition to continuing to provide opportunities for the full faculty to work together to advance our inclusivity practices, I’ll meet individually with every employee to learn where they are in their inclusivity journey and to support them in developing clear and concrete goals for growth. One question my colleagues and I will explore in these one-on-one meetings is:

How have I or will I activate my commitment to the DEI Ally Pact in my work and relationships with students, colleagues, and parents?

The DEI Ally Pact is a way to move beyond passive rules for engagement on matters related to DEI (e.g. “always use ‘I’ statements, and practice both-and thinking) and stare down what’s really at issue when socially advantaged folks interact with socially disadvantaged folk.

As a Belmont Day parent and community member, how aware are you of your blind, tough, and blank spots? What is the work you’re doing to avoid causing some to feel unseen, undervalued, or uninvited? The DEI Ally Pact invites all of us to make our inclusivity practice explicit and active.

This fall, the Reflective Practice Group will provide a safe-brave space for faculty across disciplines, roles, and social identity categories to share and exchange experiences, questions, concerns, and support on matters related to inclusivity practices.

An opt-in summer book group is reading and discussing Gods of the Upper Air by Charles King. Readers come into intimate contact with some of the key pioneering, courageous, rebellious, and complicated figures in anthropology whose ability to see beyond divisive constructions of us-and-them laid the foundations for the principles of inclusion of equity that animate our efforts to honor differences. I enthusiastically recommend this book to any human and especially to humans raising little humans who wonder why we think about social identity as we do.

Progress Pride Flag by Daniel Quasar

How are we integrating DEI into the educational program?

Among the many things I’m grateful for at BDS is being able to work with educators who hold instruction and enrichment in matters related to social identity, social bias, and social justice as having importance and value on par with instruction and enrichment in every other area of our educational program.

This year we began development of a DEI curriculum. Although details of this scope and sequence map will change as this work is in-progress, this working draft is a reliable window into what we’re building. The Social Identity Prism provides the constellation of topics and conceptual framework for the kind of comprehensive, clear knowledge we want students to gain about the dynamic interaction between social identity, social bias, and social justice. This fall we’ll continue to work collaboratively across all grades and all specialty areas to build and provide a thoughtful, engaging, enriching, and developmentally appropriate DEI curriculum.

We’ll also start the 2020 school year with focused attention to key DEI, SEL (social-emotional learning), and health and wellness content that will equip our students to keep themselves and each other safe, maintain respectful relationships, and express their feelings about the unique confluence of challenging circumstances they’ll face upon returning to school—COVID19, unrest related to racism, and the upcoming election.

How are we developing policy and practices that relate to DEI?

At the start of the school year, we created a clear policy on how to approach the presence of one of society’s most charged and complex terms, the n-word, in curricular material. The following lesson plan was used to introduce students to the policy. By adopting this approach we achieved a community practice that relieves teachers from having to determine on their own what might be the best practice vis-a-vis the n-word and that safeguards students from being offended or causing offense to others.

Honoring Differences in Hiring Processes

As a member of every hiring process this spring, I was grateful to be able to work with my colleagues to ensure that diversity was a quality seen as valuable as the knowledge, skills, and abilities sought in any role. Study upon study confirms the importance and power of exposure to both familiar and novel models and narratives of humanity. Children, especially, feel more welcome, secure, confident, and motivated, and are more able to empathize and get along with a global citizenry when they are surrounded by mirrors and windows. For these reasons, we are explicit and deliberate in our efforts to recruit and retain students and faculty who represent the widest possible range of human diversity.

Avoiding Social Bias in Team Meeting Discussions

Maintaining an awareness that all of us are susceptible to implicit bias enables us to create practices that resist inadvertently appraising, discussing, and treating children unfairly. This set of guidelines supports teachers in connecting actual disciplined preventive practice to awareness of implicit bias.

Engaging the whole community. This is BDS.

One small box plus another small box. One set of hands working with another set of hands. One voice added to another voice. Soon a few boxes becomes a crate full of boxes; a box that was blank is transformed into a beautiful gift; a statement about the importance of honoring the legacy of Dr. King and a song sung in tribute to him ring clear and strong. This is how a small thing can be done greatly. This is the power of community. This is BDS.

In January we held our first-ever MLK Jr. Oatmeal Drive for Pine Street Inn. This friendly competition between students and families on one team and all faculty on the other team resulted in a service project that every single member of Belmont Day community participated—and over 700 boxes of oatmeal donated for the guests of Pine Street Inn.

  • Sixth graders tracked the donation progress and percentages on the Gallery bulletin board
  • Cross-graded partner groups decorated the oatmeal boxes
  • Students learned about nutrition inequity and what even young children can do to help from guest speaker Matt Ferrer, volunteer administrative coordinator for Pine Street Inn

How are we engaging parents in DEI?

In the past year, we facilitated Parent SEED as well as three social identity groups:

  • Parents who identify as Black or Brown
  • White-identified parents
  • White-identified parents raising Black- or Brown-identified children.

We were unable to realize plans to facilitate a gathering for Asian-identified parents due to scheduling challenges but we will provide that opportunity and continued opportunities for parents who identify in the other three social identity groups in the coming year. If you are interested in gathering with parents who share your social identity, please contact Dr. Hoyt.

In the fall we’ll pilot a new program—Parenting for Social Justice—for parents seeking an opportunity to gather together to explore topics related to DEI. Parenting for Social Justice will replace and improve on our Parent SEED model by incorporating the best elements of SEED while avoiding the limitations inherent in the SEED model (i.e. limited membership capacity, requirement to attend all meetings, lengthy meeting time). We look forward to initiating this inclusive DEI enrichment program for parents.

Student Voice & Student Belonging

"Fence" by Theo von Gottberg '20

DEI Student Advisory Group

In the fall, I’ll invite interested students in grades 5 to 8 to serve as my advisors on matters related to DEI at BDS. I hope that by providing regular and direct contact with me, these students will feel that their perspectives and ideas are valued. I know I will benefit from their unique insight into life at Belmont Day.

All-identities Affinity Group

In addition to continuing the Students of Color affinity group and the Gender & Sexuality Alliance, both facilitated by faculty, I’ll invite students in grades 5 to 8 to participate in a pilot group called “The Coalition,” or BDSC (Belmont Day School Coalition). The group's purpose will be to find and explore our identities with empathy, respect, compassion, good will, and good humor across social identity categories.

The Honoring Differences Channel

We’ll establish a survey for students and parents to confidentially express appreciation (ways in which we’re THRIVING) or concerns (things that should compel us to keep STRIVING) related to experiences at BDS that either affirm or detract from a sense of equitable inclusion and belonging.

This survey will require identification of responders so that follow-up can occur. All input will go directly and exclusively to Dr. Hoyt, who will acknowledge every submission and contact any student and/or parent who expresses a concern to discuss it and determine what can and should be done to address the concern.

Conducting an Assessment of Student Belonging

This past year, we explored instruments to assess students’ sense of belonging at BDS. Responding to COVID-19 disrupted this process; we will resume our efforts to determine the best means to assess student belonging at BDS, and aim to conduct an assessment in 2020-2021.

Parents are always welcome and encouraged to contact me about anything at all (no matter how small you might fear it is) related to a question, concern, or information about your child's sense of belonging at BDS. I’ve loved getting to know parents in my first year and I look forward to continuing to get to know our parent community.

Contact: choyt@belmontday.org