Hi Everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. I still have a few dozen drafts in various stages of writing so it’s definitely not for lack of stories to tell, but life’s been busy lately and priorities shift, as they do.
That said, for a few weeks I have been working on another prong of this mission of advocacy. A friend of mine from middle and high school happens to be a reader of my blog and is now a teacher! For a few months, a wonderful group of teachers has been organizing a day of diversity, equity, and inclusion for their students which included speakers and workshops to discuss these themes all culminating to today’s first annual (I hope) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Day at Lingelbach school, part of the Philadelphia School District. I was honored to be asked to be a part of this amazing experience!
It’s interesting that when I started this blog, my original intended audience wasn’t school children. In fact, much of what I’ve written so far is definitely geared more for a corporate audience in showing the benefits of embracing diversity to think outside of the box and find ingenuity in untapped markets. But I must say, today’s virtual workshops with 40 or so 6th, 7th, and 8th graders probably made more of a direct, meaningful, and lasting impact than anything I’ve written here or for the corporate networking magazines.
To begin, we discussed the definitions of both Diversity and Inclusion, and how we really need both to be an equitable society.
We addressed bullying, and how it’s not enough to just not be a bully, but we should actually embrace those who are different. We shared our experiences being bullied as well as the regrettable times when we were the bully and the lesson we learned from that side as well.
The questions were absolutely fantastic, too. Each question came from a perspective of seeing how similar we all really are. There were the genuinely curious about how I approach different things logistically: How do I hold a pencil, and how can I play video games; I demonstrated both right in the virtual meeting after taking a few seconds to grab my Nintendo Switch controller from upstairs.
There were the great intellectual questions that I would have expected more from my therapist than middle schoolers: Do I hold grudges against those who’ve made fun of me in the past (not mostly), how does it feel when people assume things about me because of how I look (not good), do I wish I was born with “normal” arms and hands (no, I don’t).
Then of course some of my favorites, which truly highlighted our similarities over our differences, if I could travel anywhere in the world, where would I go? What are my favorite foods? (New Zealand and macaroni & cheese, respectively.)
I was particularly impressed with the level of participation in the Q&A workshops following my presentations. These kids are much more advanced, aware, tolerant, and accepting of people who are different than my peers and I seemed at that age. Without any leading questions, the students came up with things that make people diverse beyond race & ethnicity; attributes like age, gender, spoken language, and even sexual orientation.
Reflecting on today’s experience, I can’t help but be in awe of the kids and their teachers and this amazing day they put together. It’s obvious that the topics of diversity and inclusion are already engrained in these kids and it’s so much more than a single day’s curriculum. While there’s still so much in the world to still be concerned about, I am so happy to know that today’s kids are years ahead of previous generations when it comes to embracing diversity in all its forms!
Now you can understand why I loved teaching so much!
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So rewarding to make an impact with just 40 or so students! And you know, the impact you had on me was absolutely passed on to them. What a legacy!
Many, many thanks for your willingness to participate in our first (Yes, first! We are definitely going to be doing this again!) annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Day. The impact this day had on our students knows no limits. The students are still talking about it and asking when Mr. Jim can come again!