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The Waldorf School of Garden City Commits to “Doing the Work” for DEIJ Every Day

First-grade art in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Waldorf School of Garden City (WSGC) has partnered with Camille Simone, a DEIJ Practitioner, Consultant, and Coach to continue work surrounding Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) in our School, and community.

On January 12, our School’s DEIJ Committee, in collaboration with the WSGC PTA, and Camille hosted an event: Connecting, Uniting, & Transforming – An Evening of DEIJ Conversation. Faculty, staff, current parents and guardians gathered to learn how to begin the process of having meaningful DEIJ conversations.

“Committing to do the work and learning of DEIJ is difficult. Recommitting to doing the work every single day can be even harder. But I believe that courage deeply impacts our ability to show up to this work authentically and powerfully one conversation at a time.”  ~ Camille Simone

Described by Camille as a “DEIJ onboarding session,” the event was a chance to begin the journey, obtain information, get clarity about the work, and understand that this is just the beginning. The conversation began with community agreements for engaging in DEIJ learning, that included simple yet powerful suggestions on engaging, listening, and monitoring our feelings while in this space. The first of four break-out sessions focused simply on introducing ourselves and each person shared their full name, pronouns, and association with the School. Introducing ourselves with preferred pronouns was encouraged to help create and normalize the habit of sharing this information.

As the evening progressed, we explored the definitions of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice. Focusing on our diversity, we moved into breakout room three to explore the diversity within our community by asking the question “How does your family cook/enjoy eating rice in your home?” This question brought up discussions about comfort and family recipes, traditions, and ethnic backgrounds. Breakout room four lead us deeper into conversations about Inclusion by asking “Can you think of a time you experienced feeling truly included in a community? What specific circumstances made you feel this way?” followed by the converse questions, “Can you think of a time you did not feel included in a community? and “What were the specific circumstances that made you feel this way?” Stories ranged from being the first black family in a neighborhood or a first-generation American to being a new mom with no one to turn to for connection and support. Highlighting our similarities and differences during this session created a space for listening and learning about our community members and friends in a more intimate way.

The great feedback from the community regarding this event has led to the desire for parent affinity groups and we are excited to see how that takes shape. The School is extraordinarily grateful for the collaboration of the entire community in this important work and we look forward to our next workshop together in the coming months.

WSGC students have also initiated their own efforts starting the first Black Student Union on campus this year. This, in addition to the High School GSA, Middle School GSA and BLM clubs, Community Service Club, and Snack Stand have allowed students the freedom to created safe spaces for each other as well as an avenue for educating the community and organizing and fundraising to assist groups in need. In addition, high school students will be working directly with Camille Simone in the spring.

The Waldorf School of Garden City DEIJ Committee began almost 10 years ago as The Diversity Committee. It is comprised of any faculty and staff members who would like to help further the mission to be an environment where diversity is celebrated, and all members of our community are included and seen. Read the full DEIJ statement of intent at www.waldorfgarden.org/deij/.  The group has regularly sponsored a variety of workshops, book studies, speakers, film screenings, and community outreach activities addressing topics such as toxic masculinity, gender bias in schools, understanding gender identity, race, privilege, sexual harassment, and more to raise awareness and educate employees, families, and students. Furthermore, the committee helps support the recent adjustments to the curriculum and attention to inclusive teaching materials across all grades. Particularly noteworthy is a new HS Main Lesson Block called, “Anti-Racism and the Transformation of Malcolm X.”

Currently, WSGC employees are participating in a book study of I’m Still Here. Black Dignity in a World Made for WhitenessAustin Channing Brown. To discover what additional activities and workshops that WSGC employees are participating in visit: www.waldorfgarden.org/deij/. If you have any questions about the continued work of the DEIJ you can e-mail the Co-Chairs at deij@waldorfgarden.org. You can also follow on Instagram @wsgc_deij