Staff attend equity conference, bring up conversation on race

Olivia Kim, Associate Online Editor in Chief

All faculty and staff attended a mandatory conference on Friday, Feb. 14, organized by teachers and teaching and learning facilitators Joyce Kim and Katie Page. The topic of the three hour conference was to discuss equity, which was defined at the conference as  “what all students need to succeed and thrive at Prospect,” and how to approach dilemmas concerning racism in Prospect’s changing student population.

After Kim and Page had attended numerous workshops as part of their positions at teaching and learning facilitators, meaning that they are to act as a resource to other teachers, they felt compelled to request time to share the information that they had learned to the staff at Prospect. Kim and Page were very grateful for administration for allowing them time to hold this conference. 

“Mrs. Kim and I feel a great responsibility [to share this information]. The knowledge was bursting out of us. We needed people to learn about this,” Page said. 

Kim and Page spent many hours preparing the presentation and activities, also including recordings of students at Prospect talking about their struggles with racism. Even though it took a lot of courage to stand up and talk about personal things, it was worth it, according to Kim and Page. 

“Staff was definitely engaged and I think that there was a spark created that day to generate more discussions among staff regarding equity,” Page said. 

The two understand that most staff wanted a plan of what to do after this conference, and how to introduce this conversation to other people and students. However, Kim noted that there is no “one size fits all” answer to this topic and is instead a lens to look at everything one does.

“I just hope that [people] are aware [of this topic]. Race isn’t a conversation that they have to shy away from,” Kim said.

AP Psychology teacher and attendee Daria Schaffeld found the opportunity almost immediately to bring the conversation to her home after the conference when her nephew came home after school talking about his classmates saying the N-word.

“It was just this perfect opportunity to talk about language and hate,” Schaffeld said. “I felt like thanks to some of the things that we had talked about [at the conference], I was even more prepared to handle that conversation with my son and my nephew, which I thought was great.”

Another takeaway from the conference that Schaffeld had and shared with other colleagues was the idea of white privilege. 

“I hope that all of my colleagues have a better understanding of that white privilege idea. I have a better understanding of it [after the conference] and I think that big takeaway is to be kind and to realize that small comments can be [understood differently] by different people,” Schaffeld said. “If you keep kindness at the heart of the way that you live your life, it takes care of a lot of things, doesn’t it?”

Kim and Page hope to start to change the community at Prospect by building a stronger one.

“We truly do believe that if staff get to know each other better, they can use those tools for their students to get to know each other better… that will automatically build a stronger community here at Prospect. If people get to know one another, it takes away a lot of other problems,” Page said. “It’s hard to hate up close.” 

Even though this topic is understood differently by different people and different people are only so comfortable with talking about it, both Kim and Page hope that everyone will reflect and make it personal to them. 

“I want staff to see what they learned and apply that to their roles in ways that are genuine to them,” Kim said.

image from hewlett.org