Student voices are highlight of educator conference

Today, Gordon hosted sixteen professionals from independent schools in New Haven, Weston, Dedham, Amherst and Brookline for workshops that drew on Gordon's work in multicultural curriculum, identity development, and social justice.

It was the second in a series of educator roundtables Gordon is hosting this year. read about the first one

It was also the second time in a week that Gordon has hosted independent school professionals who were looking to learn from Gordon's experience. read about last Tuesday

 

The morning began with an overview of Gordon's twenty-five years of work in what is now called "equity and inclusion".

Then, there were small group presentations tailored to the interests and question the visitors had offered when they registered for the day.

 

This week's gathering was smaller than last week's, which had drawn over one hundred people.

 

This one also featured Gordon's secret weapon: student voices.

 

The Gordon administrators who presented are all former classroom teachers, and it was a treat to see them teaching again.

 

It was also a treat to see the Gordon students holding their own in conversations with education professionals eager to hear about cutting-edge practice.

 

In one workshop, Curriculum Beyond the Classroom, three seventh graders and their humanities teacher fielded questions about their work creating authentic change in their communities.

 

One student, on the experience of meeting with Gordon's trustees about changing how Gordon recognizes Columbus Day: "It felt like something we'd been doing every year at Gordon: writing letters to ask for change, and sometimes getting a letter back. It was really great to do this on a real-life scale, when we could talk back and forth with people and know that we might be the ones to make a change."

 

In a second workshop, students and teachers talked about the history of race-based affinity groups at Gordon, and their impact on classroom learning.

 

One student, on the ways Middle School Common Ground has changed her day-to-day experience in class: "I haven't always been someone to participate in class conversation, even though I have some passionate opinions. When I'm in Common Ground, I speak more freely, though. And now I have friends of color who will notice when I'm not speaking up in class. They'll give me a look, because they know: I have an opinion. And that will get me talking."

 

The third workshop didn't include any students, but it was all about student voices.

Gordon's Middle School Director talked about tools like the talking circle, drawn from theories of restorative justice, that are helping make Gordon's approach to student discipline more effective and truer to the school's mission.

 


Mr Burnstein on the talking circle: "It draws on what Peggy MacIntosh calls 'forced democratic sharing': every student involved needs to talk, and every student needs to listen. Our job as adults is to help determine who needs to be in the conversation, and making sure everyone feels safe and prepared to participate."


Gordon is a longtime leader in multicultural education, sustaining a schoolwide commitment to racial diversity and equity work for the past twenty-five years. Over that period, Gordon has been an innovator in the independent school field, leading work on affinity groups and tuition reform, running a national institute for multicultural educators, and hosting a master's degree program for elementary school educators.

The peer roundtable series reflects Gordon's leadership role among independent schools, and Gordon's commitment to sharing hard-won lessons with others in the field, with the hope of creating a more authentically inclusive and equitable independent school community. For more information, contact Lynn Bowman at lbowman@gordonschool.org
 

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