Faculty, Staff Continue to Embrace Inclusivity

“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” — John F. Kennedy

Faculty and staff returned from spring break for a professional development day devoted to inclusivity, understanding and compassion with Jonathan Zur, president and CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. This was Zur’s second visit to campus to continue to cultivate a climate of inclusivity, an idea fostered by our strategic plan.

The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities “works with schools, businesses and communities to achieve success by addressing prejudices, in all forms, in order to improve academic achievement, increase workplace productivity and enhance local trust,” according to its website. “Through workshops, retreats and customized programs that raise knowledge, motivation and skills, VCIC develops leaders who work together to achieve success throughout the Commonwealth.”

The morning was dedicated to learning the cycle of prejudice, a round-robin, vicious cycle of holding onto one’s incorrect beliefs about a particular demographic. Zur walked faculty and staff through thought experiments, testing their own—albeit unintentionally—preconceived notions about different people. It was a great way for everyone to reexamine their perspectives and think more inclusively.

Everyone finished the afternoon in small groups discussing microaggressions. According to Psychology Today, microaggressions are “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

After Zur explained some of the complexities of microaggressions, everyone anonymously wrote microaggressions they’d received on sticky notes, placing them on large pieces of paper throughout the room. Next, groups retrieved one of those pieces of paper and spoke critically about the messages their colleagues had received, drawing similarities and comparisons.

“It was really enlightening,” Upper School Math Teacher Sarah Hammer said. “I learned a lot about my colleagues experiences, but it really made me think about the ways in which words and language affect my students. Whether that comes from a teacher or my students’ peers, I want to continue to make Collegiate a positive place to be. Learning happens in environments where people feel safe and their voices are heard. I’m really glad Jonathan was here!”