Faculty Workshops Promote Inclusion

Science teacher Ms. Selena Gell described the workshop “Expanding Gender Identity Beyond the Binary” as “productive and worthwhile.” This meeting, held on December 12, is the second in a series of “Dialogues on Differences” workshops, which Dr. Keith Hinderlie, Director of Equity and Inclusion, started this year with the help of Mr. Tom White, Director of Faculty Development.

“The general idea was to create times on the faculty calendar for proactive discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion topics,” said Dr. Hinderlie. Mr. White expressed a similar sentiment: “Certainly, our ongoing desire to create dialogue in the community prompted these workshops.”

Math teacher Mr. Zach Kafoglis, who attended the workshop, said it “emphasized that while constantly fluctuating terminology surrounding gender can be tricky to nail down, it is important to establish some common language and understandings for our campus.” Ms. Gell said, “One conversation that particularly struck me was about asking students for their preferred pronoun at the start of a new course or at a beginning of the year dorm meeting. Some faculty suggested this was a good practice because it normalized the idea that each of us choose our own gender identity, while others felt it was not a good idea because it forced students to make a public declaration of something they might not be comfortable sharing right away.”

According to Dr. Hinderlie, the first meeting, which engaged attendees in conversation about stereotype threat, implicit bias, and microaggressions, was also well-attended and well-received. Mr. Thomas Larsen, a science teacher found it to be a useful and stimulating discussion: “It was interesting and gave me a lot to think about.”

Two additional meetings, exploring socioeconomic diversity and white privilege and consisting of similar discussion styles, will take place this school year. Every faculty member is required to go to at least one.

The faculty-led workshops were designed with the intention of utilizing the expertise of faculty. “We want to build our cultural capacity from within,” said Dr. Hinderlie. However, he also plans on possibly sending faculty to conferences and bringing outside experts into campus.

Several students still have doubts on how much faculty can affect diversity inclusion among the student community. “It’s limited to what teachers can do,” said Brandon Zhang ’20.

Caroline Rispoli ’20 added, “If a student barely knows a teacher, it could be uncomfortable if the teacher tried to start a deep, personal conversation about inclusion.”

Dr. Hinderlie considers the idea the unproductivity of investing time and effort into diversity inclusion within the community. He and his colleagues’ goal in creating these workshops is not to stifle the concept of inclusion by oversaturating it. “We wanted to create a way for faculty to have opportunities to come together and talk about these and other topics,” said Dr. Hinderlie. He continued, “Being responsive to the needs of a diverse school community is more challenging without this type of focus and structure.”

If faculty continue to appreciate the Dialogues on Differences workshops and they are effective, they may even expand in the future. “We thought four was a good number to start with, but we want the opportunity to maybe add one or two more meetings a year,” revealed Mr. White. “The hope is that we’ll continue to have these dialogues on differences going forward.”

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