This has been a thoughtful two weeks around the lower school as teachers, and many parents, have found themselves engaged in conversations about race. Starting with Mr. Smyth’s letter to the community about the school committee on diversity’s name change from Community and Diversity to Community, Equity, and Inclusion, the message is being sent that work needs to be done to move us forward as an institution that lives its mission. Stemming from last October’s school events and Baltimore’s struggle to bridge racial divides, Gilman is becoming even more committed to building understanding and prepare for meaningful conversations around equity and inclusion. I believe the leadership at Gilman desires for every member of the community to feel they have access to an equal educational experience and leave the school knowing he or she was a valuable and included participant in school life. Desire and good intentions does not always mean those objectives are met. We know there is more work to be done.
As a lower school, we are addressing our understanding of race and equity by structuring several faculty meetings around the topic. Last week teachers watched the moving documentary, American Promise. See the link below to the PBS site that discusses this film. This week we will break into small groups and discuss issues introduced in the film that relate to our Gilman community. In addition to this, more that a dozen teachers from the lower school attended a panel discussion at Friends School last Monday night that addressed the topic of white women teaching black boys. The panelists presented some challenging statistics and made for thought-provoking conversations throughout the school week. See the link below to one panelist’s website which I found particularly insightful. On Thursday last week, many faculty members were treated to yet another moving speaker on the topic of race- this time Race, Athletics, and Education. Dr. Onaje X.O. Woodbine told his story to a packed room and answered the many thoughtful questions that the audience asked. Our older boys had an opportunity to hear him speak earlier in the day. I have no doubt that they were as moved as the adults I witnessed that evening. For more about Dr. Woodbine and his book, Black Gods of the Asphalt, visit the website link below.
My thoughts continue to revolve around these important issues on my daily drive home as I listen to Ta-Nehisi Coates read his book Between the World and Me. It is a powerful read, “required reading” according to Toni Morrison. I am heartened to know that so many parents and teachers in our middle school are reading this as a book club selection and plan to discuss the book together next month. Ultimately, our boys will be the beneficiaries of this very important work. Below I have linked two articles that I came across in my Twitter feed that I found informative and thought provoking. Enjoy!
On a separate topic, often parents have questions about how our lunch program works. New this year is our offering of dining service for grades K-2 in the Stevens Room. The boys have settled into this new routine beautifully and are enjoying the benefits of choice and healthy eating daily! See the photo collage below as evidence of this enjoyable eating ritual in lower school.
I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” based on recent school events.
- If you are in Kindergarten- What penguin do you like learning about the most? What house did you make for Even or Odd Street?
- If you are in Prep-One- What new facts have you learned about bears this week?
- If you are in First Grade- What President did you pick to represent in the Presidential Parade next month?
- If you are in Second Grade- What are you learning about Immigration? What were some reasons people left Europe and came to America through Ellis and Angel Island?
- If you are in Third Grade- Have you participated in any Skype calls with members of the Iditarod? What musher would you like to follow?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- Did you enjoy 4C’s play?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- How is play practice coming? Are you enjoying the songs and watching your classmates prepare? What is the plot of The City of Ember?