One of the most enduring features of working in schools is that in order to create a stimulating learning environment, you must continue learning yourself. (Incidentally, this was the theme of our recent and very successful Spring Fling where we raised money for faculty and staff professional development.) Earlier this year and in an attempt to be learners during the school year, the senior administrative team read, discussed, and studied Brene Brown's new book, Dare to Lead. In fact, we spent hours across six meetings exploring the relationship between empathy, leadership, and trust. Brown is clear and sometimes challenging about the topic of diversity and inclusivity. She touched a nerve for me in the following passage,
“People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, and being wrong. Choosing our own comfort over hard conversations is the epitome of privilege, and it corrodes trusts and moves us away from meaningful and lasting change.” (p. 9)
I, for one, have certainly experienced each of those fears this year, and I have found myself at times unable to speak in conversations when I think parents, guides, or students might be expecting me to say something wise, or, at least, useful. One of my hopes for the AIM process is that it will create space for us to do what Brown urges, “have hard conversations instead of protecting our own comfort.” I think we have begun to do just that, and I believe there's plenty of room for growth and practice.
Here are four reasons I hope you'll turn out to hear the AIM results:
First and foremost, many of us care deeply about student voice and know it's core to the school's identity. As you'll see and hear, student voice figures prominently in the results from the AIM process. While 465 people responded to the survey, the big news here is 42% (195 students) of the respondents were between 12 and 18 years old; they are the ones who will live in a city, state, and world that is diversifying rapidly. And, I would add, having recently visited our Social Justice elective in middle school, the students are neither shy, timid, nor hesitant to have conversations about race, ethnicity, gender, or identity. I hope we adults can figure out how to follow their lead.
Second, we hold a broad range of perceptions (and misperceptions) about our school--that's, of course, to be expected given how spread out we are geographically and given the wide age-range of students we serve. Thanks to the AIM process we have a chance to correct some of the misperceptions. One example of a misperception: the board of trustees is homogeneous and less diverse than other groups in the school. It's actually majority female with seven female trustees and six male; two trustees identify as people of color for 15% of the Board makeup. In comparison, the faculty's composition across the three campuses is slightly different than the board's: approximately 75% of the faculty are female and 20% of faculty identify as people of color. So, neither group is homogeneous, though those numbers vary by campus and program.
Third, these results are the beginning of conversations about how to make our school more welcoming, more diverse, and more equitable. Only by being in conversation about these results can we begin to generate ideas that support all students in their journey toward identity formation and bringing more peace to the world.
Fourth, as I have come to learn since moving to Austin four years ago, breakfast tacos are the best way to start a day, and I look forward to sharing them with you.
So, you are enthusiastically invited to join me and Lorena Germán, AIM Coordinator, as we present perceptions, concerns, and recommendations as expressed by the 465 of us who participated in the AIM process.
Friday, May 10: Tacos with Ted & Lorena, River Campus Garden, 8:30-9:30 a.m.
Tuesday, May 7: Tacos with Ted & Lorena, Springs Community Picnic Table, 8:30-9:30 a.m.
Thursday, May 9: AIM Parent Meeting with Ted & Lorena, Creek Campus Library, 6:30-7:30 p.m.