“In our mission statement, we promise to graduate students who are at “ease beyond their borders”; that is, students who have the cultural competencies necessary to engage with and serve in communities other than their own. Whether those borders are defined by race, culture, physical ability, socio-economic background or other measures of identity, Avenues equips our students to connect across differences and embrace access for all—both in and out of the classroom.” – Kym Ward Gaffney, VP Leadership, Learning & Inclusion
Integrating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work throughout our curriculum is core to supporting our commitment to ensuring that our community upholds our values of welcome, safety and respect.
- Welcome means that we behave inclusively, making members of the school community and guests feel comfortable and at home.
- Safety means that every student, teacher, faculty member and visitor should work to keep one another safe, in all ways, and be mindful of the well-being of our community, at all times.
- Respect means that all members of the Avenues community regard one another as partners in a common enterprise, recognizing each person’s dignity, worth and contribution.
As a world school, DEI is more than a simple topic that is taught. It’s the lens through which we teach and build community, and we believe it’s of vital importance to educate children to acknowledge, understand and celebrate diversity from the very beginning. The foundation for DEI at Avenues is set in social and emotional learning as we believe it’s only when students feel comfortable, safe and trusting that they are able to learn and grow.
Our DEI work in the Lower Division is threefold: faculty facing, student facing and parent facing.
Faculty: Faculty meetings and workshops focus on topics spanning from identity to implicit bias to the uniqueness of Chinese immersion. Through our own professional development and internal learning and unlearning, we are better equipped to teach our students in our curriculum. Our professional learning theme is that “We are all diversity practitioners.” This means that it’s not just one person’s job to create a culture of belonging but that we are all responsible for being intentional about expanding our personal learning within DEI.
Students: This year, we are focusing on Diversity, Equity Inclusion and Social Emotional Learning (DEISEL), DEISEL in language immersion, and affinity groups.
- DEISEL was coined by teachers Cabrina Kang and Regina Hardatt in 2020, as a way to holistically encompass culturally responsive teaching and historical learning in the classroom. DEISEL is an anti-racist approach of culturally affirming and culturally responsive practices that allow students to honor their authentic selves and the identities of others, build deep relationships, while learning how to be empathetic and make wise decisions, on the path to equity and justice.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL), the capstone in which students develop self-awareness and interpersonal skills, is embedded throughout our curriculum – from how we set up small groups, to making class agreements, to resolving conflict.
DEI and SEL must work in tandem as we cannot truly teach social emotional learning without understanding and seeing the identities of one another.
- DEISEL in language immersion: Starting from nursery–5th grade, students alternate days learning in either Chinese or Spanish. Therefore, students are learning core DEISEL skills in their target languages.
- Student Affinity Groups: These are safe spaces where students who share a common identity gather and talk about issues related to that identity.
Parents: Parents are incorporated into our DEI efforts though dedicated morning talks about race, events that the Avenues Parent Association DEI committee hosts. For example, last year we held a town hall meeting to gather and respond as a community in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the racial violence being experienced by our Asian community. Our focus was to raise awareness and increase racial literacy. Additionally, during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, families were able to watch panel discussions to talk about allyship with the Asian community.
Ultimately, DEI is important in the classroom in order to understand that our students, who are themselves diverse and unique in their own way, are the leaders of their own learning. Our curriculum must reflect that and we continue to strive towards that in our teaching practices everyday in the Lower Division.