Transforming Individuals and Schools – 2012 Summer Diversity Institute

Starting another session as a facilitator (my sixth!) this week at the NAIS Summer Diversity Institute (SDI). We have 74 participants coming this year – more than the 68 NAIS generally caps it at – with another 12 on the wait list! I have often said to my colleagues back at school and elsewhere that this institute is the best professional development I do for myself each year. Although I’m a facilitator here and present a three-hour workshop every day in addition to facilitating other small group sessions in the afternoon and evening, I take back with me as much about building inclusive communities in our schools as I hope I share in my workshop with the participants.

Independent schools are by definition exclusive. A selective admissions process coupled with a high tuition cost for entry requires intentional and thoughtful leadership to build an inclusive policy and practice. This year’s SDI theme is TRANSFORMATION, and having gone through this process now for six years – one as a participant and five as a facilitator – I can personally vouch for the theme. SDI is unlike any other professional development because it affects and impacts the intellectual, social, and emotional parts of us every day, and this process and the scheduling as such is just as intentional because diversity is arguably more personal than professional. Unless we first recognize and then own our privileges and the powers associated with them, we cannot engage and serve as allies to those less privileged or powerful than us. Similarly, we cannot allow others to engage us in areas where we lack power or privilege unless we are sufficiently informed and reflective about ourselves.

Ultimately, the week ends with the participants and facilitators as one big happy family – no, really! I’m not being facetious here or sappy either. Individual lives are transformed, and therefore participants are ready to go back to school rich with knowledge, skills, strategies and resources, and most importantly, the sense to affect and lead change around diversity and inclusion back in their respective institutions. The one big happy family finds ways through email, Facebook, and so on to keep in touch and lean on and vent to one another as the year goes on and successes and challenges abound.

The SDI faculty – a group of ten terrific educators and even more fantastic individuals – is my work family, and although we get together for only a few days in the year, I lean on them personally and professionally than any other friends I know. So here’s to the faculty and to the 2012 participants, and to another great week ahead as we seek again to transform lives and institutions!

The Taft School Campus – site for SDI 2012

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