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29th People of Color Conference

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29th People of Color Conference

Sponsored by The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) as part of their commitment to equity and justice in teaching and learning.

This will be my third year facilitating the White Affinity Group Sessions at this phenomenal conference.

The mission of the People of Color Conference (PoCC) is to provide a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. It equips educational leaders with knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in their schools. It also focuses on academic, social-emotional, and workplace factors that impact equitable and just performance outcomes for students and adults alike. Programing attends to the fact that human beings are complex, with needs and concerns informed by multiple identities and intersections.

Unlike most independent school settings, the majority of the PoCC attendees and presenters are people of color. The wisdom and perspective of people of color tends to be a “minority” view in independent schools (and other businesses and organizations in the U.S.). The NAIS People of Color Conference offers attendees the empowering experience of an interactional space that more closely mirrors world racial and ethnic demography.

This year’s conference is in Atlanta, GA, a fitting location given the human and civil rights challenges we face today. This event is a call to action for schools in society, calling on educational leaders at all levels, from teachers to trustees, to work together to solve the challenges we face, recognizing that collaboration is fundamental to innovation. The conference invites critical thinking about the concerns of today. Working together magnifies the capacity to confront and eliminate the implicit and explicit structures that thwart the wellbeing and performance of all members of (independent) school communities and helps to ensure the relevance and success of people of color.

POCC is designed for people of color, relating to their roles in independent schools. The programming supports people of color as they pursue strategies for success and leadership. Its focus is on providing a sanctuary and networking opportunity for people of color and allies in independent schools as we build and sustain inclusive school communities.

This event is a distinct professional development experience in the national education landscape. It provides an opportunity for educational leaders to refocus their work and learning through an equity perspective. The conference includes general sessions with keynotes, dozens of practitioner-led workshops, extensive affinity group work, and dialogue sessions.

NAIS sponsors PoCC to support the complex dynamics of independent school life and culture and the varied roles people of color play and experience in these settings.

The first National Conference for Teachers and Administrators of Color in Independent Schools was in 1986 in Reston, VA with about 100 participants. 2016 will be the 29th PoCC conference with over 3600 participants.

Affinity Group Sessions

PoCC hosts affinity group sessions to provide an opportunity for sharing and exploring your life and experiences within safe and supportive spaces defined by membership in a specific racial or ethnic identity group. Affinity group sessions are designed to help conference participants engage in conversations that matter, share successes and challenges, celebrate identities and engage freely within a space defined and protected by and for those who share race and ethnicity in common. Unlike all other conference programming (which is open to all irrespective of race and ethnicity), affinity group space derives its meaning, integrity, and transformative power from participation by same-group members. NAIS recognizes nine identity statuses for affinity groups. NAIS recruits facilitators from each of these groups to support the process.

It is important to underscore that affinity groups are not places to go “to learn about others,” even when the “other” is a participant’s child, friend, or colleague. Each of us is welcome in the affinity group space that matches our self-identified race or ethnicity. Entering any other affinity group extinguishes the safety and trust that defines them.

The overarching vision for PoCC affinity group work includes

  • facilitating opportunities for affirming, nurturing, and celebrating lived experience of affinity group members

  • discussing issues related to racial/ethnic identity development in a safe environment where people who share that racial or ethnic identity can generate community, fellowship, and empowerment

  • modeling a structure that acknowledges the complexity of race and ethnicity by encouraging affinity groups to affirm, explore, and examine intersectionality (e.g. race and gender, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation), within each community.

Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC)

At the same time as POCC is SDLC, a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9–12) from across the U.S. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community.

 

***All of the text on this page is taken from the NAIS POCC website.

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Gifted and Creative Individuals

I would love to hear your thoughts on this perspective of gifted and creative individuals.

The article is The Application of Dabrowski’s Theory to the Gifted by Kevin J. O’Connor and was published in the book Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know?.

Here are a few quotes from the article to give you a taste of its content:

Dabrowski observed that gifted and creative individuals are often in conflict with the demands and expectations of their environment…

Many in the gifted community believe Dabrowski’s overexcitabilites, as they contribute to developmental potential, are a measure and indicator of giftedness.

Overexcitabilities are enhanced modes of being in the world. The word ‘over’ used in connection with ‘excitability’ connotes responses to stimuli that are beyond normal and often different in quality. Dabrowski identified “psychic overexcitability” in five forms: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational and emotional.

While the concept of developmental potential emphasizes the positive aspects of experiencing life with greater intensity and sensitivity, these same characteristics may also be experienced in negative ways. Individuals with elevated overexcitabilities are more susceptible to being misunderstood and alienated by those who don’t share or understand their unique personality traits.

Parents of gifted children and gifted individuals themselves may find that Dabrowski’s ideas provide a useful “framework for understanding and explaining the developmental patterns and challenges that occur for those of high ability.”

Photo source

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Keep Your Brain Entertained


An interesting npr segment on how active our brain gets when we are bored. Daydreams can suck us into an ever-interesting world of distraction. According to this article, if you want to stay engaged with the content at hand, keep your body engaged on something such as doodling. Don’t let the mental activity get the best of you if you want to continue focusing, give your hands something else to do.

When the brain lacks sufficient stimulation, it essentially goes on the prowl and scavenges for something to think about. Typically what happens in this situation is that the brain ends up manufacturing its own material.

In other words, the brain turns to daydreams, fantasies of Oscar acceptance speeches and million-dollar lottery wins. But those daydreams take up an enormous amount of energy.

The function of doodling, according to Andrade, who recently published a study on doodling in Applied Cognitive Psychology, is to provide just enough cognitive stimulation during an otherwise boring task to prevent the mind from taking the more radical step of totally opting out of the situation and running off into a fantasy world.

When I host small Friendship Groups with students, I often put a bowl of rocks, shells, stick, cones into the middle of the circle in case anyone needs something to fiddle with. A group the other day began building with the objects while we were discussing some of their problems and concerns. Their sculptures were beautiful and inspiring and a nice example for this article! One child preferred the erasers!

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Together We Can Make a Difference: Opening Space with Children

I feel blessed and thankful to live a life that includes so many opportunities to be inspired. On January 20th, 2009 after President Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony I had the opportunity to spend my day hosting 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders in Open Space.

The idea was birthed in a planning committee with 3 third grade students. They decided the questions that would guide the our time together:

and

What is something that you think is important
in our school or in our world that you would like to discuss?

The planning committee opened the space with a poem and a story.
The opening poem by Mila Kopp:


And another student told a story:

Once you get older it’s harder for people to change your mind so you’re not as much of a help to the community when they’re trying to think of something to do or when something’s wrong and they need help and are deciding what to do. For instance, with my grandfather, it’s really hard for people to change his mind because he just thinks one thing is right and if something else is right and someone tells him, because he’s older, it’s a lot harder to change his mind and it might not even happen.

You can read more about the topics they discussed, their notes, and their closing remarks at Educating For Wholeness.

Here are a few of my favorite comments:

  • STOP Globle Warming (happy voice) in ten years (Deep Voice)
  • make a complante to the president
  • Invent vical that runs on trash or sun, rain
  • Nicely tell others to be nice
  • Help stop war by traiding reciorses
  • If you are shy talk
  • If you are a chatterbox let others have a chance to speak
  • I agree with (another student) that you don’t need that many people, you only need like 5, you don’t need like 15 or 20 or 50. You don’t need huge numbers like that.
  • I learned that when everyone pitches in just a little bit, it can make a giant difference.
  • I discovered how pollution can make the air dirty and hurt people and animals
  • I discovered a lot of people have ideas too.
  • I discovered that once you think about it, there is a lot more waste
  • I learned it can actually be pretty fun to work with other people
  • Teacher: I learned that you all can have important conversations by yourselves and that you don’t need the adults there. I also learned that you can self-organize what you want to talk about.
  • I discovered there is a lot of things to change and like President Obama, we should start.
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Can You Help Me Write a Song?

As a school counselor I host Friendship Groups in classrooms. In the past I was responsible for 15 classes (preschool through 3rd grade). This year my main focus is with 9 classes (1st-3rd) which is providing me an exciting opportunity to be more explicit in the curriculum that I use and develop. I imagine there will be more to share about that as the year proceeds.

At the moment I’m focusing on our starting rituals. An important element at the beginning of a group is some sort of shared ritual, shared experience. When I was a teacher with my own classroom, I used a song for this. When I entered this job with 15 classes that I move between I started my groups with a bell and moment of silence. Unfortunately, however, coming and going busily from one class to the next, I was inconsistent and eventually stopped using the bell regularly. This year I want the opening ritual to be sacred. To always start each group.

I would like to create a song that shapes the space and invites us to be connected to ourselves and connected to one another.

Qualities of the song that I am interested in:

  • I’d like the song to be punchy – to invite body movements and voice inflection, to invite us to wake up and be engaged! A celebration.
  • I’d like for the song to provide an opportunity to experience harmony with each other, a vocal sense of togetherness.
  • I would like the song to invite us to be in our bodies, connected to our hearts with open minds, ready to learn, and connected to each other.
  • I imagine that at the end of the song there is a brief moment of silence.

Below are some words I’ve been playing with… they’re not ‘right’ yet, but it will give you a sense of the direction I’ve been exploring.

And then comes the request (you knew this was coming, right!): Do you have ideas to add to the creation of this song? I’m not very developed in my musical sensibility. Are you? Do you have a tune to offer that this song could go to? Would you like to help me create this song? If you’re technologically inclined and want to share an audio idea with me, I believe you can sing into this site, odeo.com… or if you want to schedule a phone call, send me an email and we’ll set a date to talk (opening space (oneword) @gmail.com).

Thank you so much for any help you have to offer.

The latest version I’ve been playing with:

You and me are here right now
Alive in our bodies
I’ve got an open mind
Ready for new ideas

I’m going to listen from my heart
I’m going to speak from my heart

You and me are here right now
Let’s feel us here together

….bell….

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Roots of Empathy on CBS

Another taste of Roots of Empathy (with a commercial at the beginning)

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Roots of Empathy

Tomorrow begins the next amazing (I imagine) training of this summer. I am very fortunate to be participating in the pilot of bringing the successful Canadian based program, Roots of Empathy, to the United States.

I first learned about this program at the Vancouver Dialogues with the Dalai Lama on Educating the Heart (you can listen to those dialogues here). Of all the programs that were presented, Roots of Empathy was the one that most deeply touched my heart as a powerful program with the potential to touch and effect many individuals.

Have a peek at their mission:

The focus of Roots of Empathy in the long term is to build capacity of the next generation for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting. In the short term, Roots of Empathy focuses on raising levels of empathy, resulting in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced levels of bullying and aggression. Part of our success is the universal nature of the program; all students are positively engaged instead of targeting bullies or aggressive children.

The basic structure is that an infant and parent and their relationship are used as the teaching modality for such content as emotional literacy, inclusion, neuroscience, infant development , perspective taking and much more. The infant and parent visit a classroom 9 times throughout the year. A Roots of Empathy instructor goes to the classroom with them and the week before and the week after the parent/baby visit. A synchronistic chain of events has lead to the opportunity for me to be a Roots of Empathy instructor at a local public school. (I’m very excited!)

Here is my response on the application to the question of Why do you want to become a Roots of Empathy Instructor?

I am deeply inspired by this program and how it uses relationships as the core of its teaching, invites and facilitates community connection and belonging, teaches through modeling and experiencing, and has potential to reach a wide variety of people (students, parents, teachers… of all types of diversity). I would like to become an instructor because I would like to see this program touch as many people as possible and therefore I would like to help facilitate that sharing and touching!

Here we go!

On a separate but related note, I’m having a hard time figuring out what to write here these days. There is so much pouring through me on both a personal level and a professional level that I’ve been clueless about where and how to jump in and share with you (and a little uncertain as to who ‘you’ are these days). If there is anything that you are curious about from these trainings or anything else that has been going on in my life, please feel free to ask me questions and maybe help inspire forward some writing here! Thanks.

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