Community +Equity: Building Belonging at ICS

"We’re here for the kids. We’re here for each other. We will succeed."

This sentiment was shared school-wide at the end of an inspiring Professional Development Day on Tuesday, February 19, as Learning Sciences expert Carla Pugliese led a workshop entitled "Community +Equity: Building Belonging at ICS" for the entire faculty and staff.

Thanks to the John and Lisa Morton Professional Development Speaker Series, the Indian Creek faculty, staff, and administrators had the opportunity to learn how to work together to create a community of belonging, weave accountability and compassion into the school's social fabric, and incorporate restorative practices into Indian Creek School.

Ms. Pugliese opened the session by asking the audience to reflect on Equity & Inclusion work that has been done in the past and present, and consider their excitement and fears about carrying this important work into the future. She invited the group to experience a "Moment of Discomfort" - and then collectively realize that everyone in the room survived. Next, the colleagues established a list of Affirmative Agreements to carry them through the day.

Ms. Pugliese then helped the faculty and staff understand the importance of approaching equity through a social-emotional lens. "The interpersonal and intrapersonal are always entwined," she shared. "Language matters – verbal, symbolic, and body language."  Ms. Pugliese emphasized the importance of this work, saying "What you build is what you get." She also shared that often, equity means differentiation, and assured the group that the goal is practice, not perfect.

To start the day, teachers shared how they identify, and were then made aware of blindspots they might have for both themselves and others. Ms. Pugliese then shared the concept of "bottlenecks" in life, which author Joseph Fishkin defines as "a narrow place in the opportunity structure through which one must pass in order to successfully pursue awide range of valued goals.”

Ms. Pugliese asked the faculty and staff to break into small groups and look at a variety of systems within the school to map the experience for a variety of constituents, and look into what types of bottlenecks might exist at various intersections. From the admission process, to learning support, parent communication, hiring procedures, and much more, the group had the opportunity to look deeply at many aspects of school life through a new lens. At the conclusion of this activity, the faculty and staff held a gallery walk to view each other's work. 

Another valuable part of the workshop was the opportunity for the faculty and staff to practice Responsive Behavior together as a group in what can be perceived as both minor and major situations. The group shared "Strategies for Tricky Moments" that can help faculty feel empowered to take ownership of an inclusive culture at Indian Creek, and support students in the moment. 

At the end of the workshop, teachers were invited to share their reflections on the morning and E&I work in general through index cards. A consistent and important goal that was expressed by many was a desire to "be recognized by all students, regardless of race, creed
, sexual orientation, or gender identity, as an advocate and ally."

After the morning workshop, the faculty enjoyed lunch together, and then shared an afternoon filled with curriculum team work, as well as a series of workshops presented through both external webinars and ICS faculty presentations. Highlights included: a presentation on Teacher Wellness by Pre-K teacher Ginni Sterling, a presentation on Visible Thinking by Upper School Humanities faculty member Becca Derry, presentations on "Student Voice" and "Riding the Waves of Change" by Director of Teaching and Learning Sarah Allen, and a presentation by Upper School Librarian Ashely Fetterolf about the library resources.

The February 18 Professional Development Day provided a valuable opportunity for faculty and staff to come together to learn as a group and to move forward with important Equity and Inclusion work.