Last month, LFSF parents were invited to attend an interactive, 90 minutes workshop with Dr. Derrick GAY to explore foundational themes such as intercultural competency, identity, diversity, inclusion, and equity in French and U.S. settings and how to apply strategies to discuss these important values with children.
This workshop, organized by LFSF and its Parent Association, was very well attended. While the event was not recorded to allow participants to express and share freely, we followed up with Dr. Derrick GAY and with George-Axelle BROUSSILLON MATSCHINGA, the LFSF Board Trustee who is spearheading the DEIJ Committee.
- Dr. Derrick GAY kindly accepted to share his slide presentation
LFSF : The workshop you proposed to our parent community served as an invitation to engage in an important conversation on diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in general, but also in a school context. It's an exercise that you are doing in many schools across the country. How do you engage people to have this conversation with you and what do you find that it resonate similarly or differently with parents, educators or students?
Dr. Derrick GAY : I have worked for the last 24 years with schools and businesses around the world to cultivate intercultural competency, promote empathy, and deepen inclusion. My current clients span the globe from Paris, Rome, and London to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Guatemala, and South Africa.
The consistent challenge across geography, industry, and age group is the word 'diversity.' A few years ago I produced a TEDx Talk, entitled the Double-Edged Sword, that explores the irony that the word diversity often undermines the goals of diversity because people tend to understand the term as a synonym for under-represented groups, such that everyone doesn't feel included by 'diversity.' Diversity often resonates as "different" instead of "differences," in ways that often discourages engagement by the "non-diverse" If we don't include everyone in the initial framing, then we are unable to galvanize individuals from all groups advance strategies to foster inclusion and belonging.
The most salient obstacle that I find in French schools, in particular, is the notion that the work around intentionally fostering a diverse, inclusive, and equitable school is an American problem. While DEI challenges manifest differently, informed by region and history, issues of inclusion exist around the world-- including in France. Indeed, there is vibrant debate occurring in France around diversity and inclusion, including meaningful conversations around religion, gender, race, and more.
LFSF : The workshop was not recorded to allow participants to exchange more freely and share their feelings, or experience. You were kind enough to share your slide deck. What message would you like to share with parents who couldn't attend but are interested in the work?
Dr. Derrick GAY:
1) Every child and family deserves an inclusive school environment to support their ability to thrive and flourish.
2) The school should continue efforts to ensure that the LFSF students, faculty and staff, and families mirror the rich diversity of the San Francisco metropolitan area and the world. (diversity)
3) The mere presence of an international community does not organically foster inclusive perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors. In fact, international communities must work harder to reconcile multiple national understandings around inclusion.
3) The work around inclusion is always intentional, so we must begin to cultivate open-mindedness and empathy at very young ages. We must continue to support intercultural competency at all ages in developmentally appropriate ways.
4) Parents, faculty and staff are critical partners in this work.
5) And finally, parents should make every attempt to attend the next workshop.
LFSF : George-Axelle, this workshop was just the beginning. What are LFSF and the Board DEIJ committee planning on doing to make sure that this important work continues at our school and within our community ?
George-Axelle Broussillon Matschinga : Becoming self-aware of the pervasiveness of biases and consistently addressing them to create inclusive experiences for all requires time. We started the partnership with Derrick Gay last year and launched Unconscious Bias workshops for teachers and staff first. This year, we continued rolling-out this series of workshops, and yes, it was our first edition for parents thanks to the fantastic partnership with the LFSF Parent Association, our Head of School and the Board DEIJ Committee.
Moving forward, we plan to develop a sustained learning approach by offering more workshops and learning moments on additional DEIJ topics such as micro-agressions and allyship. For LFSF families, in particular, we’ve launched a DEIJ Parent Resource Group that offers parents the opportunity to connect, share their experiences and learn more on these topics. Additionally, to help us accelerate our efforts holistically and support not only our staff and teachers but also our students and their families, we are in the process of hiring LFSF first DEIJ Director. This role will be key to building diverse teams of teachers and staff, sustaining inclusive working environments for them but also designing inclusive learning experiences for all students regardless of their background or ability, and continue including DEIJ in our curriculum. Successfully advancing DEIJ in our school will still require everyone to play a part though, and we are grateful for the commitment of our community on this journey.
"The workshop inspired us to reflect on the true meaning of DEIJ in a supportive atmosphere. It helped us develop a consistent message on diversity to support our children’s growth. It put us on the path to understand what our school needs to do and what we can do as parents to help inculcate the values of DEIJ in our school. " – Farinaz A., LFSF parent
"We found Dr Derrick Gay’s DEIJ workshop very informative, thoughtful, and quite appropriate for the LFSF. Dr Gay was a very calm, thorough, and highly professional presence for a complicated and often uncomfortable subject. " – Bridgit M., LFSF parent