Severn Hosts Round Tables on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Last month Chesapeake Campus hosted teachers from local Maryland and D.C. schools for two days of professional learning. From school-wide initiatives to lesson planning, these round-table sessions explored how to create a more inclusive environment for students of all ethnicities, learning abilities, gender identities, economic status and more. These sessions allowed our teachers to both share their expertise and learn new strategies, continuing our commitment to lifelong learning and professional growth.
Sharing Our Vision
As expressed in our inclusivity statement, Severn aspires to be a community where each person is welcomed and affirmed. We strive to understand the needs of our students, foster a sense of belonging, encourage the thoughtful exchange of ideas, and set the stage for students to succeed both socially and academically. We understand that this work is ongoing and will continue to evolve over the life of our school.Lower School teacher Ms. Karen Bennett worked with the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS) to plan both workshops, one for preschool through first grade and one for second through fifth. These were our first inclusivity sessions geared specifically toward the needs of Lower School students. She began each day with an overview of initiatives at Severn:
Attending professional development conferences on differentiated learning, racial literacy, culturally responsive literature instruction, selecting diverse resources, and identity-based bullying
Conducting curriculum audits to identify overlap and fill in gaps
Teaching students to investigate gender differences in industries like technology and science and explore gender differences in children’s literature
Connecting American history curriculum to more global themes (ex. linking the Boston Tea Party protests to human rights campaigns)
Developing our Open Doors program to intentionally teach every grade to value our differences
Learning From Each Other
Some attendees are just beginning this type of work in their schools while others are farther along — the diversity of experience in the room made for an interesting spectrum of questions and discussions. Working in smaller groups, they explored topics like:
Professional development. What PD topics would you like to see offered? Do you have speakers that you recommend?
Classroom resources. How do you handle books that may be perceived as controversial? How do you budget and evaluate materials?
Lesson planning. Are there certain diverse groups that you address well? What groups do you not address well? How has your teaching evolved as our culture has evolved?
Personal challenges. What biases might you have? How do you handle colleagues who have differing ideas? What topics do you find most uncomfortable to discuss? Who at your school assists you with any issues that arise?
Curriculum design. Does your curriculum mapping include inclusivity? Do the ideas spiral? How do you decide what is appropriate for your grade? Do you teach about inclusivity separately or as part of traditional subjects?
Holidays. How do you handle religious holidays, Thanksgiving, and Columbus Day? Do you acknowledge special months (ex. Black History, Gay Pride, Hispanic Heritage, Women’s History)? How do you support students who don’t celebrate traditional holidays?
Throughout the conversations, the groups examined how their values, cultural identifiers, and school traditions and demographics can impact how and what is taught. No single school has all the answers. But working together we can improve our practices and create supportive, inclusive communities where every student can thrive.