Today is day 2 of the NAIS Summer Diversity Institute (SDI). At the opening session yesterday, Jay introduced the faculty as one of the most functional groups he has worked with. What defines the functionality of a group or a team? At SDI, we build community intentionally and daily. Relationships extend beyond the professional and into the personal realm. Trust and respect are first given by the leaders to the rest of us on the faculty. Every voice is respected, the process allows for feedback, and decisions are explained. Perhaps, what really makes us a functional group is that all of the above allows us to be our authentic selves. I don’t need to pretend or put on a mask or keep secrets from any of the SDI faculty. You are accepted before you even join the team.
Over several years now of doing diversity work in independent schools, I have come to realize that ultimately, Jay’s remark about the faculty and the purpose of diversity work are closely intertwined: both allow people to be their authentic selves, and when you can be authentic, you feel safe and more willing to take risks, share your questions and experiences without the burden of judgement or rejection by the group. Education begins and ends with authenticity, and if not, then our best intentions and actions in other areas will fall short of our goals. Yes, race/ethnicity, religion, class, socioeconomic, age, ability, body image, sexual orientation, gender, and so on are parts of diversity work, but they are details when looked at through the lens of allowing our students and faculty and families to be their full authentic selves. Imagine how the barriers to change and to difficult conversations would fall down when schools build such a community daily and with intention behind every action. Imagine!