Tag Archives: diversity & inclusion

Forging Bold Leaders with Inclusive Mindsets

“In most cases, the blessings of our resources afford us the opportunity to stay comfortably tucked in our enclaves insulated from the messiness of our world… Put challenging issues before [your children] at a level appropriate to their age. Text them editorials on contrary sides of an issue; share informative video clips. Discuss all of this at dinner. Do what you can to help your children become aware that they are part of a larger, complex global community – not above it, apart from it, or absolved of responsibility for it.”  

– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016


A lot can happen in six months.

When I wrote and delivered the statement above as part of my Parents’ Night remarks in September (referenced in my September 2016 blog post), Colin Kaepernick had just a week earlier kneeled for the first time during the national anthem. An already divisive election season – to which I also alluded in my comments that evening – was still two months from yielding a generally unexpected result. The drumbeat of headlines and news stories on domestic Executive orders, travel bans and immigration policies had yet to register a social media click.

Indeed, our children live in a complex global society.

In this space throughout the year, as well as in my chapel talks to the community, I’ve highlighted boundless thinking. I’ve pondered the characteristics of individuals and organizations that, like Parish, embrace such a mindset of hopeful optimism and possibility. I’ve offered examples of how our program, alumni and community demonstrate it.

While some may find my musings uplifting, I recognize that for others, a bleaker world view may prevail.  Images of society riven by divisions and boundaries flood our senses from a variety of sources.

As educators (and parents), we’ve been presented an opportunity. I would frame it using questions:

  • Will we watch our children slide passively into one of the isolated and insulated ideological camps which characterize our present national profile?
  • Or will we explore and evaluate with them the contours of today’s knottiest issues so that they become bold standard bearers of civil discourse and architects of collaborative solutions?

In my September remarks, I offered my answer as both a dad and Head of School:

“I want my sons and the students who graduate from Parish to live and lead with a boundless spirit, unencumbered by fear; I want them to modulate ambition and empathy; I want them to be guides to the middle ground where solutions, compromise, and steady – if at times deliberate – progress is made.”

– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016


No one would mistake “deliberate” progress for boundless accomplishment. But when it comes to building intentional, mission-aligned programming to prepare our students to navigate and mend the evident fissures in our complex global society, I think a steady advance is noteworthy.

At Parish, three interwoven programs buttress the formation of impactful leaders.

First, daily chapel instills time-tested lessons in love.  Love for one another, love for our neighbor, love for those with opposing views and, yes, even love for our enemy.

PLeads_GirlPowerLunchSecond, a robust homeroom, advisory and experiential learning program complements the ethical foundation chapel establishes,  using the ParishLeads framework to build student capacity for relationship building, empathy and awareness of difference.

ParishLeadsFrame

Finally, as I wrote in  January 2016, we have initiated complementary programming in the area of Diversity & Inclusion. Guiding this effort has been the revised mission and diversity statements approved by the Board of Trustees in 2015. Now in her second year, Director of Diversity & Inclusion Tyneeta Canonge has convened several groups to assist in the development and implementation of initiatives in this space: Divisional Diversity Committees, The Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board – comprised of parents, a school Trustee, and faculty and staff members – and a thriving Student Leadership Diversity Board in our Upper School.

D&LFocusAreas_blogTogether, these groups have helped craft action steps in several key areas identified in the accompanying chart.

In doing so, we have kept in mind the developmental needs and readiness of our students. We have also evaluated closely the time allocation deemed appropriate for the work.

The below visuals offer a summation Diversity & Inclusion programming developed and implemented thus far this year.

LS_D&IMS_D&IUS_D&I

 

This work of forging bold leaders with inclusive mindsets has – especially in these unsettled times – left segments of our constituency uneasy. Some feel chapel need not be every day, or that it is too Christian, or not Christian enough. Others think an advisory period committed to ParishLeads usurps time from our academic purpose. Some believe we are not moving swiftly enough to be a more inclusive school community –  defined as one which is whole, unified and loving, but at the same time sensitive to and respectful of opinions and backgrounds of difference in our midst. Meanwhile, others believe we are moving too quickly or that our program content serves more to divide than to unify.

We accept this feedback and appreciate it. We will continue to improve our communication on programming in this arena. Notably, I am pleased to introduce a new blog resource within our Diversity & Inclusion webpage – Voices & Views – where you will find resources, examples of activities in which students have been engaged, and news on upcoming programming (third trimester activities are now posted).

Enriched by this feedback, our mission-driven commitment to this work will remain steadfast.  Tomorrow’s complex world demands the boundless, collaborative and attuned leaders we believe it will yield.

Trying to Make Sense of a Senseless Summer

brown_rawlingsAt our recent Parent Nights, I projected this picture on a screen. While it might seem an unusual picture with which to welcome parents back to a new school year, the summer we just experienced was anything but usual. Woven with the joyful moments of relaxation we enjoyed were disorienting and disturbing images of violence, divisiveness, and incivility.  Our city experienced this firsthand, and Chief Brown and Mayor Rawlings leadership in the wake of the July 7 shooting contributed to my reflections on the turbulent three months gone by.

The summer’s events compelled me to speak to the home/school partnership. In particular, how we cooperate to guide young people in our community to be “bold leaders prepared to impact our complex global society.” This phrase from our mission statement– “complex global society” – has been on vivid display in the 90 days since school released for the summer in May.

MissionStatement_finalTwo other words from the phrase – “bold leaders” – explain my picture choice. As a student of leadership and a citizen of this city, I watched with interest and admiration the police chief and mayor in the wake of last month’s shootings.  I was impressed to see these two men – one black, one white; one a fourth generation Texan, the other born and educated in the northeast; one a career public servant and law officer, the other a career businessman turned local politician –  transcend these evident differences and lead.  In the midst of harrowing violence and loss, they projected assurance, other-centeredness, and hope for a better tomorrow.

But the “bold leader” phrase from our mission statement and the example of these civic leaders also begs the question: from where do such leaders come? What type of parenting and school culture consistently yield individuals with the intelligence, skill set, and disposition we associate with credible adults whom others follow willingly?

These are certainly questions too big to address in a blog post – they form the basis for excellent leadership courses. But as a father and an educator, this summer left me feeling powerless.  I wondered what was within my reach to influence amidst this seemingly endless news stream communicating unspeakable hatred, puzzling justice, random violence, and vitriolic politicking.

Among other things, I want my sons and the students who graduate from Parish to live and lead with a boundless spirit, unencumbered by fear; I want them to modulate ambition and empathy; I want them to be guides to the middle ground where solutions, compromise, and steady – if at times deliberate – progress is made.

I knew I could ensure intentional programming exists to build such disposition in students. Our ParishLeads framework – woven through advisory, homerooms, experiential trips, and our daily chapel – contributes to it.  Our intentional work around diversity and inclusion, led by our Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Tyneeta Canonge, develops our skills in this regard. As the November election approaches, we will intentionally engage our students across each division in activities and discussions to heighten their awareness of our civic responsibility to be an informed and passionate electorate. We will also teach and model civil discourse and celebrate it as one of the most cherished and honorable characteristics of our unique democracy.

familymatters1But I’d propose there are two additional things we can do together, home and school. I would like to suggest we have the power in this milieu of uncertainty to make a shared contribution.  And I would like to think what it requires of us is not that difficult.

First, we can promote awareness.   An understandable tendency in the face of what we’ve experienced would be to shield our kids from it.   In most cases, the blessings of our resources afford us the opportunity to stay comfortably tucked in our enclaves insulated from the messiness of our world. When you travel – locally or globally – move off the beaten path.  Help your children understand what a food desert is; drive them to South Dallas and wonder with them what it might feel to live at great distances from a supermarket. Put challenging issues before them at a level appropriate to their age. Text them editorials on contrary sides of an issue; share informative video clips. Discuss all of this at dinner. Do what you can to help you children become aware that they are part of a larger, complex global community – not above it, apart from it, or absolved of responsibility for it.

Finally, remember this.

Love beats back fear every time.

Not the overprotective, shielding, and indulging kind, but the type of love that – with consistent application by parents and caring adults like us – research has proven produces the well-adjusted, resilient, hopeful, and capable adults our complex global society needs. Author and psychologist Robert Evans has provided perhaps the most cogent compilation of this thinking in his framework of nurture, latitude, and structure. I think Parish provides just this type of love for our students. When we regathered in August following this complicated summer, I asked our faculty and staff to recommit to offering our students boundless doses of love. I hope parents will take account of how their home environment features nurture, structure, and latitude.

In the end, as a dad and a school leader I’ve determined there is indeed something I can do. I can help shape the next generation of Mayor Rawlings and Chief Browns. Young people who become adults possessing a civic awareness and aptitude both in mind and heart.

In my August post, I cited Reimagine Parish, our plan to provide boundless opportunities for learners featuring greater personalization and student engagement. As much as our program continues to evolve, though, one commitment will remain.  We will be a school where, no matter how dark the world may seem at the moment, no matter how predominate the constraints and limitations of incivility, ideological thinking, and divisiveness may be, kids will feel loved. They will know we walk through this complex world with them, committed to equip them with the skills and character they need to make it better.