This week I turn my space over to Dr. Stephanie Bramlett, St. Luke’s Director of Diversity & Student Life…
“Does my office always look like this?”
This was my first thought as I walked into my office on Monday morning. The brightly colored handouts strewn about the floor, post-it notes plastered to every surface, and hastily scribbled ideas on the dry-erase board, made it look like creative genius had exploded. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and sipped my coffee—I smiled. It has been a busy month at St. Luke’s.
The St. Luke’s community works hard to ensure all members are able to be themselves— regardless of race, gender, financial aid status, family structure, or learning difference. This is how we envision our school. This busy January, it was clear our students have the courage and character to do the hard work of building an inclusive community.
A few weeks ago, the Student Diversity Leadership Council led a meeting to train faculty on how to facilitate difficult conversations. Faculty used these skills in an upper school conversation about the “N-Word” The objective of the conversation was not to police language or tell people what to think, but rather to open an honest dialogue about the intent and impact of language.
In the last week of January, our 9th graders participated in J-Term, a five day long project-based learning experience themed, “Our Shrinking World.” The 9th graders’ task was to design a community service project that tackled a local manifestation of a global social injustice. Our whole community was invited to attend an exhibition where the 9th grade project groups pitched their service idea and the whole community voted on which service project we would do.
During the exhibition of project ideas, students enthusiastically called me over to explain the social injustice they had studied and tell me about their plan for restoring justice. The two winning projects were from the Poverty and Gender Equity groups. The Gender Equity group’s service idea was to engage the whole upper school in a conversation about gender equity. Our children are eager to talk about social justice issues and we are committed to finding the time and space for them to have these conversations.
On January 31st, the third annual SLS Social Justice Leadership Summit and Ally Workshop boasted a record number of participants. Forty-four students and nine faculty facilitators gathered for a day of learning about race, class, gender, ability, religion, and other social and core identities. In an epic fourteen-hour day, we shared perspectives, learned from one another, and brainstormed ideas for making SLS an even more inclusive community.
Sophomore, Kate Stamoulis comments, “I had never been a part of something so meaningful, and I can definitely say that it was indeed life changing. I feel as though I have really found a passion for social justice, and it has opened my eyes to so many things about our world.”
We are teaching students how to articulate their perspectives and how listen to someone else’s perspective. We are asking them to become scholars of their own epistemology and to think about why they think what they think. In conversations about our differences, we are teaching students how to find common ground and shared understandings.
In Mark Davis’s Unafraid blog, he said “There is nothing more valuable than teaching our children to think, debate, and learn from one another.” Seeing our students’ eagerness to dive into tough issues and make a difference in their world…put that smile on my face.