I just moved to Richmond from Oakland in May, and work at a private non-profit preschool in Oakland. I am very interested in these questions and it's something I've been thinking a lot about. My (non-co-op) preschool has a similar makeup of majority white, economically secure, and progressive leaning families. One of the things we are actively trying to address is increasing accessibility in terms of economic diversity (mainly through fundraising led by our economically secure families), as well as increasing the presence of non-white families.
One of the challenges I see is not just admitting lower income families (who often don't even apply because of our sticker price, despite our offering scholarships) and families of color, but providing the support and connection to the community once admitted. We have room parents who are volunteer parents in each classroom who do some outreach to new families in that classroom to help them meet and connect with the other families in the class, but their level of engagement varies and I haven't figured out a good way to find out whether people are actually feeling supported and connected.
When children notice differences (as we know, this is very common from 3-5), we talk about how everyone is the same in some ways and everyone is different in some ways, and our differences are what make the world an interesting place to live. We also have a curriculum that is heavy on social-emotional development, and encourage children to listen to each other and express how they feel. These qualities will lead (we hope!) to adults who are curious and respectful of different ideas and ways of living.
I am interested in more formal anti-bias training (this is a standard required course but it feels like it isn't always fresh in the minds of all of our staff). And how do you engage and create awareness with staff who have been raised with problematic or stereotypical ideas of groups? Or parents who have those ideas? It's a fascinating problem that certainly needs addressing.
Please keep us updated on your journey!
Assistant Program Director
BlueSkies for Children
Sent: 07-17-2019 11:42 AM
From: Encian Pastel
Subject: Building with parents and staff around diversity and equity
I'm a teacher (not teacher-director) at a cooperative preschool that is run jointly by parents and directing staff, where parents outnumber staff on the board of directors. This year, I'm joining the board as staff rep. Our school has around 50 students, and families are majority white, generally well-resourced, and progressive-leaning. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with our diversity chair on school-wide equity issues. One of the first things I'd like to do is start dialogue around our school mission and philosophy. In our philosophy we have stated a commitment to anti-bias education, but only the first two goals of anti-bias education are described in the philosophy statement-- and this is generally reflected in our practice as well, where the fourth goal about taking action to address injustice is rarely emphasized. As I dive in and begin having conversations with parents and co-workers, I'd love to engage the group mind around:
-What does it mean to apply anti-bias education goals -- positive identity formation and belonging, respect for difference, recognizing bias, and acting to create justice -- to our entire school community, not just our work with children in the classroom?
-If you've gone through a process of creating some sort of diversity/justice mission statement with your school, can you share tips and struggles about that process?
-I welcome all stories about building with parents to address diversity and equity issues, inside and outside the classroom curriculum.