DEIB: Students Adjust to New Advisories and SSSAS Priorities
After the increased national discussion of systemic racism in June, the administration felt it was the perfect opportunity to go deeper into the discussion of racism at our school. When speaking with Ms. Mcguire she noted that in the past, incidents with racial slurs or racist actions have not been treated with the importance they should be. Considering we are a predominantly white school, education on racial equality needed to be increased. Ms. McGuire and Ms. Davis worked to implement DEIB advisories into our schedules weekly.
DEIB advisories are held on Wednesdays between the second period and lunch. These advisories consist of facilitated conversations about race, privilege, and bias. Typically these issues are explained in a more broad sense, then through conversation, related to our school community. Students can follow along with the presentation through Pear Pad, and watch videos explaining different topics.
To get a better understanding of DEIB from a student perspective, I interviewed some Upper School students. Senior Jane Chen , had sent out surveys to the entire upper school asking about DEIB. She said she was surprised to see that out of the 328 students who filled out the survey, 93.9% said they regularly attend DEIB. She then made the point that maybe the students, “felt pressured to say yes so they wouldn't get in trouble or if they actually meant it.” Not all advisories have the issue of low attendance, but it is an issue for some.
A student who prefers to keep their identity anonymous, explained they only attend when they are in person, but not online. When asked about what activities they have done, they replied, “we have never done activities. It is always just a powerpoint presentation, where you are being talked at the whole time.” The way it is presented will directly affect student interest, so with little hands-on learning opportunities it “feels more like a class,” according to Jane Chen.
Though it is hard to teach about race when you are white and have privilege, TJ Moss ‘21 pointed out, “the teachers would have to relate to it to be able to fully understand and teach it to others. Being that our school is a predominantly white school it would be hard to teach that to students, but they are doing the best they can and I applaud that.” Something that could help getting students interested is having SCORE members lead some DEIB sessions to which Ms. Mcguire said she “1500%” agrees with. DEIB being student-led could lead to more student participation and feel more like a conversation with peers rather than a classroom environment.”
Another issue besides attendance is participation. When asked about her advisees’ participation, Ms. McGuire said, “I do notice a hesitancy from our white students to talk.” I asked TJ how he felt during these advisory sessions as a person of color. He noted that “sometimes I am hesitant to talk because I know this is my experience so I know this already. At times I step back and let other people talk.” I then mentioned from my perspective as a white student I myself am often hesitant to participate with the fear that I could be wrong. To that TJ responded, “there's a beauty in that because saying the incorrect thing is ok, I’d rather you say it with us than outside of our community, it’s an educational moment.”
Community is a big part of our school and TJ brings up the point that we should be comfortable and excited that we get to learn together with such a strong community. With just attending in-person sessions the anonymous student said they are, “a little bit more observant of my privilege, and have learned to be more attuned to how other people are being treated as opposed to how I am being treated.”
Covid-19 has had a big impact on being able to navigate how successful DEIB has been because we do not have opportunities to be together as a community. Putting that aside, when asked what impact it has had on our school so far, Ms. McGuire replied, “most people understand that we have made a decision. We decided Black Lives Matter at our school and we will continue to head in that direction.”