It's been a week since Dr. Brian Hotchkins, Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology and Leadership from Texas Tech, visited our campus. I have spent much of the last week reflecting on all that we learned and pondering what the next steps will be for our school community . . . as teachers, administrators, students, and parents. While this short summary of last week's visit can't possibly sufficiently represent all of the thoughtful conversations and provocative questions that surfaced, I do hope it demonstrates the value of our experience and the positive impact it had on our school community as a whole.
Our week began with Dr. Hotchkins facilitating a professional development workshop with our faculty and staff where he asked us to consider how our identities - including but not limited to gender, race, class, ability, religion, status, and sexual orientation - affect how we teach. We discussed important and complex topics such as white privilege, microaggressions, and stereotypes and discussed times when we had either been victims or given an advantage because of our identities. He challenged us to think about how who we are influences how we teach and to use our platform as both leaders and educators to free others from injustice.
The next day he facilitated a dynamic and interactive two hour workshop, Who I Am Influences How I Lead, with our middle and upper school students. After touching on many of the same themes presented during our faculty workshop, students were then broken up into small work groups where they discussed occasions when they have felt included, excluded, integrated and segregated at school. We then discussed the important difference between intent and impact in any of these categories and how students often don't intend to engage in exclusionary or mean behavior but how their actions can have unintended, often negative, impacts.
At the end of both the student and faculty workshop, Dr. Hotchkins asked every person to share one word that most accurately described how they were feeling after the session. Students and faculty alike chose such powerful words as hopeful, empowered, inspired, accountable, mindful responsible, vulnerable and courageous.
Dr. Hotchkins' visit concluded with an evening talk that was part of this year's Education Series open to our Central Oregon community during which he offered strategies for, "Empowering Ourselves to Raise Culturally Competent Children in an Age of Indifference." The school felt this to be both timely and relevant not only because of the diversity landscape of Central Oregon but also because of the national conversations around race and inclusion. Our Education Series continues to be an important platform whereby we can bring our Central Oregon community together to discuss important topics that affect our families and society as a whole. Dr. Hotchkins addressed how parents should prepare to have the "race talk" with their children, how to create holistic, introspective environments within our homes, and how to help children understand racist, sexist, and heterosexist behaviors. In addition, he offered up some helpful resources such as Waking Up White by Debby Irving, Between and World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and other media resources such as MTV's White People documentary. If you weren't able to attend his talk, you can watch the full presentation on our Youtube channel here.
As I think about all that we discussed and how we keep these important conversations going moving forward, I am reminded of the worlds of our diversity and inclusion statement,
Cascades Academy seeks to create a safe, nurturing community where we honor our unique selves, embrace the diverse perspectives and backgrounds of others, and promote social responsibility both within the school and beyond.
Like our students and teachers, I feel both empowered and responsible to take action to fulfill the promise of this statement to our fullest extent. As such, we will commit to continuing to find ways for our students to have a powerful voices in how we as a school community intentionally cultivate inclusive experiences. We will commit to offering a culturally competent, rich, and diverse curriculum that honors the unique contributions and struggles of all members of our society, and we will continue to instill both curiosity and compassion in our students so that they too feel both empowered and responsible to take action to become socially responsible individuals ready for a diverse and changing world.-Julie Amberg, Head of School