Reflections from a Diversity Workshop

Over the past two days, I attended a Diversity Workshop given by Dr. Steven Bertances. Our Head of School, Tom Doar, has made arrangements for all of the faculty and staff, from th maintenance team to classroom teachers attend these two day workshops. I was fortunate to be one in the first group of teachers.

At the beginning of the workshop, I was skeptical. First, I had to be away from campus for two days and this in itself created additional work, making sure that my classes and obligations were covered while I was away. Secondly, the sight selected was downtown, which means that I would have to go during the rush hour commute. The easiest way, the highway, is under a new major reconstruction project, so I would have to navigate using surface streets. Thirdly, I was the parent on duty, so am responsible for getting the kids to school. They had to be at school 30 minutes earlier than normal so that I could navigate the traffic, which adds a different dimension of stress in the morning.

The bright spot, I was able to download the first four podcasts from the K12 Online Conference, so I was prepared to learn while fighting traffic.

The workshop was not what I expected. The content was significantly more interesting than I thought it was going to be and I especially liked the expectation that we were not going to just talk about how we are different, but rather what we can do about it to change education keeping the school’s mission in tact. A delightful and refreshing approach to dealing with the problems.

My three take aways from the conference were:

  1. That the conditions why we needed to discuss this from a diversity perspective are no different than the conditions that I have been hearing from a technology perspective: 1. Globalization 2. Cultural Shifts 3. Demographic Changes. I am coming to the realization that these conditions are universal and that schools need to use the different lens to view the problems.
  2. That in order to be more diverse, we need to team individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives together to work on authentic, meaningful assignments which will give opportunities to the team members for personal advancement. Again, this is no different than what many of us have been trying to create for technology collaborations. The similarities shocked me. One obstacle is how we assess these success of these projects and how we reconcile this with the need to provide students with the ability to learn how to take tests and write papers so that they can get to the next part of the journey, college, which still uses ACT, SAT, and college essays as a primary method to determine who will be granted admittance to the university.
  3. As a student advisor, with the changing demographic and types of students that we may be admitting, we need to put into place support systems so that they can transition successfully into the culture of our school. We need to mentor and guide the new students into the culture.

Part of my personal learning on the way home from the workshop was listening to the Liz Kolb’s use of cell phones. From this, I have created a GCast podcast of my reflections while traveling down for the second day, which you can listen to. It is a rough cut and unedited, but shares my enthusiasm for what I have learned.

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