Posted on: Friday 10 September 2021
Posted in: Videos and Conversations
Understanding Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
Looking back on the school year, as well as the events of 2020, there are ample reminders of how St Hilda’s staff, students, parents, and alumnae have worked collaboratively to create a space where girls feel safe, valued, and successful.
In this newsletter, I thought I would bring to your attention just some of the interactions I have witnessed in recent weeks which support this confidence. Let me begin with Book Character Day.
Celebrating this day is a long-held tradition in our Junior School; for students in the Middle and Senior years, Book Character Day has been embraced during the last two years. As other significant events are postponed or cancelled due to COVID restrictions, the ability to have some personal agency and dress up as a well-loved character has created a space for some broadening conversations. The diversity of the selected book characters reflects students’ distinct interests, and insight into the quite-different natures of people at St Hilda’s and in the wider community. It was a pleasure to hear from many of our youngest students, who took time to share with me ‘who’ they had become for the day, and why they identified with the character. I had a particularly interesting chat with a young ‘Frida Kahlo’. Biographies appeared to have been quite a source of influence this year, with cultural icons from the Little People, Big Dreams series, a popular choice. This series, along with others, provides a window into how diverse ways of thinking and being open new frontiers; an inspiring point of view to introduce to young minds.
One of the tasks of adolescence, which is a focus of our THRIVE social and emotional learning program, is to assist young people to develop a strong sense of self and individuality, but also a connection to others. At last week’s Middle/Senior School Assembly we examined a number of provocations:
Do we really understand diversity and inclusion?
Does success depend on great minds not thinking alike?
What are the components of exclusion?
Do we recognise the cycle of ‘isms’ we are exposed to through socialisation?
We’re All Wonders, R.J. Palacio’s poignant story about a child with one eye who tells us how it feels to be treated badly, enabled us to connect with the conversations we must have to break cycles of ignorance. Reading texts which represent different abilities, cultures, beliefs, and facets of sexuality and gender can broaden our attitude towards those differences.
Visual media can often provide a more directed lens to better understand difference. At Assembly we viewed: “Inclusion Starts with I” https://youtu.be/2g88Ju6nkcg The commentary following Assembly suggested the imagery gave the girls much to think about.
We encourage our girls to recognise their personal biases and have conversations about ‘isms’ which create discomfort. Engaging in conversation over time, whether at home or at school, can lead to seeing change happen, and with change, discomfort turns into feelings of comfort.
Thrive Connect classes followed Assembly with our small group discussion time. Pay a compliment to the person beside you without commenting on their appearance, was the order of the task. How well did we do? The young women sitting around my table were visibly delighted. For each of us, the responsibility of teaching the art of inclusion can only lead to greater openness, greater connectivity, and greater diversity in the way we appreciate ourselves and others. This is fundamental to our sense of belonging.
Photo collage of Book Week for Secondary School:
Photo collage of Book Week for Junior School:
Progress Photos of Junior Schools New Building: