One of the things about attending excellent conferences is that one often leaves feeling empowered, energized, ready for action. And then you return to your reality. Not everyone else has been where you have been, has experienced the positives you have experienced. You are feeling warmed up and limber. Many others may be feeling lethargic and sleepy. This is the time when our best and reinvigorated selves need to remember to be kind; to be understanding; to become bridges and not the fence.
Before coming back to school this morning, I sent an e-mail to my colleagues in the elementary:
I spent the better part of last week attending the National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC) in Washington, DC. In a nutshell I would describe my experience there as stimulating, resonant and uplifting. In contrast to typical professional development conferences, PoCC provides opportunities for educators to engage in conversations which begin with social identity (race, gender, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation, etc.) as the context for addressing the what and how of our work in school communities. Equity and social justice are on the table throughout the conference.
This means that participants have space to consider and celebrate the intricacies of individual identity and the tremendous wealth of our collective diversity. In this conference I was encouraged to speak about my experience as an African-American woman working in a European international school setting and to welcome others to share their unique identity and context perspectives.
The conference boasts high levels of participation: just over 2300 adults and 1400 students who attended their own Student Diversity Leadership Conference. The caliber of keynote speakers is outstanding. Over the three days we welcomed activist Daniel Hernandez, award winning author Junot Diaz, Congresswoman Dr. Marisa Richmond and NPR’s Michel Martin. Additionally, I enjoyed the privilege of co-presenting a breakout session with 3 Klingenstein alumni of color on the benefits of our online coaching experience last spring.
My learning from this conference has been particularly valuable and rich. I invite you to ask me about it. We all have complex and interesting identities which we bring to work every day and the astounding diversity we create and navigate in our school community is worthy of our reflection and celebration. In closing the conference, Michel Martin encouraged each and every participant to “keep the conversation going.” This message to all of you is a step in that direction.
Thank you and it is great to be back! J
It occured to me during my long journey back home that I wanted to share my wins and discoveries from PoCC with colleagues and friends without overwhelming them. That’s how I began crafting this message. The response has been remarkably positive and appreciative. “Keep the conversation going” provides a useful perspective on how to bring our best experiences back to our very unique communities.