Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Lower Division
“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 and Spanish immersion. Through our own professional development and internal learning and unlearning, we are better equipped to teach our students in our curriculum.
During the 2022–23 school year, our professional learning theme is that “We are all neurodiversity practitioners.” Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways. There is no one "right" way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.
Students: This year we are focusing on Diversity, Equity Inclusion and Social Emotional Learning (DEI-SEL) through the lens of neurodiversity. There is a focus in all classrooms to allow students to express themselves as learners in a variety of ways. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- DEI-SEL: Is a culturally relevant approach to learning that addresses the intersectionality of our learners' identities. Our learners are immersed in learning about themselves, our community, and the world around them. Through this approach in learning, we see learning as a process. We also see learning as a process through a community of practice. Regardless of the social world that one inhabits, learning is a trajectory that is part of one’s identity.
- DEI-SEL in language immersion: Starting from Nursery–5th grade, students alternate days learning in either Chinese or Spanish. Therefore, students are learning core DEI-SEL skills in their target languages.
- Allyship: These are individuals such as faculty who can serve as an ally for students. As an ally, individuals are open to listening, understanding and offering support.
- Student Affinity Groups: These are safe spaces where students who share a common identity gather and talk about issues related to that identity.
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.