When does the "diversity" work really start?

Contributor: Allison Keil, Co-DIrector & Co-Founder of Community Roots

A professor from Harvard was visiting yesterday and asked us; “So when would you say this work around diversity really started?” I have to think before I answer and I have been thinking about this all night: What is the real work around diversity?

Is it the work started doing in the last 3 years to explore our own identities as a faculty and make connections with each other as adults, the same connections we hope to foster between children and families? Did it begin 4 years ago when a group of faculty with social justice backgrounds and expertise started the Diversity Working Group? Did it start when that faculty group created a scope and sequence of vocabulary and concepts related to social justice and diversity? Or was it when that scope and sequence was shared with faculty and grade teams went into their social studies curriculum maps to look for entry points to incorporate these concepts more deliberately?  Maybe it started when we revamped the Apple Study in Kindergarten to a Bread Study to begin to give children more concrete experiences with culture?Or  when, in year 5 we created a Director of Community Development position, a position that does not exist in other schools, to focus strategically on ensuring that all of the diverse voices in our community are heard? Was it when we began to expand our family programming to include purposeful small spaces for families to come together week after week to cook, and eat, and play sports and make art together?  I am left thinking that each step we have taken over these last ten years has been instrumental in bringing the work we are calling “diversity work” to an even deeper level, a level where we are considering our three major stakeholders: faculty, families and students through Professional Development, curriculum development, and family programming.

But when I push myself to really answer the question asked by that Professor I am struck that the “real diversity work” began when we opened our doors 10 years ago to a diverse group of students and families who all chose our school.  It was then that our work began to make this a school that worked hard for all of these students and families. This school had to be a place where children were loved and respected, where families were welcome,  where curriculum was relevant and engaging and where faculty were supported, and where struggles were approached by a team.  This is the work we continue to do and it is work that grows and deepens every year. It is work that is steeped in the belief that bringing a diverse group of students, families, and faculty together is paramount and that strategic work needs to be done to create spaces for us all to get to know each other, to recognize and respect different perspectives and that ultimately learning to work with a diverse group of people is the most important work that we do.