What We Did On Our Summer Vacation…

The following guest post was written by DFHS teachers Marion Halberg, Sarah Stern, Sarah Grosso, and Mallory Cairo. All four led a powerful and important Allies of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) study group this summer for our staff. This is their reflection…

It’s been a summer like no other to say the least. A pandemic, racial reckoning, and strife around the world and at home have all contributed to the anxiety and uncertainty that we are feeling. In the traditional “how I spent my summer” reflection that is so familiar to those of us in schools, we thought we’d share what we have been doing. In the spirit of the IB Learner profile, we have spent this summer engaging in some hard reflection on the work we have done and inquiring on what we need to do to make our school a more equitable and harm-free place for all of our students, their families, and staff. It’s a principled approach to the serious issues we are all dealing with as we reopen school in whatever form that may take.

Many of you know that in June we put out a call for participants to join an Allies of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) study group. We formed with 20 people from the high school and Springhurst. We spent seven weeks exploring what it means to be White and how that influences our teaching and relationships with others, particularly with our BIPOC students. We delved into the kinds of harmful experiences our BIPOC students have had at school albeit unintentionally. We read and studied Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo, and This Book is Ant-Racist, by Tiffany Jewell in addition to dozens of articles, podcasts, videos, websites, and more. As facilitators, we engaged in our own journeys and attended hundreds of hours of professional development workshops throughout the summer to understand systemic racism, racial harm in schools, centering of BIPOC students, and restorative and racial justice and more. These trainings were attended by educators from across the country and world and gave us an internationally-minded perspective.

To what end? Here’s what we learned and what we are understanding:

  • We do have a white-centered culture and curriculum and that needs to change.

  • We have caused harm to our BIPOC students. We have learned and need to challenge ourselves to understand that intent is not the same as impact.

  • We can state clearly and without hesitation that Black Lives Matter. They matter because until we center and understand BIPOC we simply cannot say all lives matter.

  • We know we are against racism but we have to actively be Anti-Racist.

  • Working to change and make things better isn’t a quick-fix. We know it will take time and we want to take the time to continue learning and changing.

We will be continuing the Allies of BIPOC study group as the school year begins. It’s an affinity group for white staff at school to examine our identity and role in our work with students and in relation to one another. It’s a journey that is not easy but it is worthwhile in so many ways. We are going to be working with Layla Saad’s book Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor which is a workbook of sorts to reflect, educate, and examine ourselves. We have a Google Classroom we began this summer with curated resources that we have gathered since June. We hope you will consider joining us.

For our BIPOC colleagues, there is a BIPOC Affinity group that has formed. Please reach out to Michelle Yang-Kaczmarek at kaczmarekm@dfsd.org (@michkkacz) if you are interested in joining or learning more. To join the Allies group please email Marion Halberg at halbergm@dfsd.org

We hope you consider joining us,

Mallory Cairo (@MsCairoHistory), Sarah Grosso (sarah_grosso2), Marion Halberg (@MegHalberg), Sarah Stern (@MsSarahStern)

Participants included: Jessica Bauer (@jessicabauer125), Lisa Brady (@YoleBrady), John Falino (@johnfalino1), Michelle Gerstle, Rachel Glynn, Megan Lois (@megan_lois_), Jillian Pallone (@PalloneMs), Elizabeth Pinkava (@pinkavae), Lauren Rodriguez, Josh Rosen (@JoshuaRosen2), Lynn Sudak, Currier Todd

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