The beginning of the 2020-2021 school year looked different. Many teachers prepared, often for the first time, to teach remotely. Others planned ways to keep students safe as they returned to hallways and classrooms. Administrators and other school staff wrestled with the best ways to meet the needs of students in danger of falling through the cracks. This does not seem like the ideal time for tackling issues of bias, prejudice, and systemic racism. And yet, that is exactly what several local schools have been doing!
Back in July, the Greenspon Center received a request from Principal Leake at Weddington Middle School. The school hosted a Becoming One Human Family program last year and Principal Leake wanted to build on that. He envisioned training the entire faculty and staff to recognize bias and prejudice in themselves and the school environment. In his words, “Turmoil related to racism plagues our streets and our suburbs—and seeps into our schools—if we as educators cannot help one another (and our students) tactfully dialogue about sensitive issues, while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect who will?” The school worked through these issues in August and looks forward to following up in January.
In late August Chiquitha Lloyd, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at CMS Schools, reached out to the Greenspon Center with news that Hough High School and Ardrey Kell High School wanted similar trainings. Donna Tarney, the Education Coordinator for the Center, worked with school leadership to create webinar workshops tailored to the specific needs of each community. She shared tools to help faculty and staff identify their own biases as well as help students discuss prejudice and stereotypes in a meaningful and productive way. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive and indicated that they want more opportunities like this in the future.
“Turmoil related to racism plagues our streets and our suburbs—and seeps into our schools—if we as educators cannot help one another (and our students) tactfully dialogue about sensitive issues, while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect who will?”
And it’s not just the public schools that are looking for ways to make systemic changes in education. Shareena Mundodi, the Director of Community Life at Charlotte Preparatory School, asked the Greenspon Center to create anti-bias presentations for parents and middle school students. These hour-long interactive webinars helped parents and students explore the processes that lead to bias, prejudice and stereotypes and how to disrupt that process to create a better school community.
Each of these programs was a short-term success in that each school community learned how to create more welcoming and intentionally inclusive schools. The long-term success will come as the Greenspon Center continues to support the administrators and educators in their work for systemic change.
If you know of a school that might be interested in working with us, please email Donna Tarney at email@example.com.