Monday, March 19, 2012

NC Middle School Diversity and Leadership Conference Concludes

On Thursday, March 15, 50+ students from Canterbury, New Garden Friends, Greensboro Day School, and Noble Academy came together at the North Carolina Diversity and Leadership Conference here at Canterbury School. During a full day of presentations, workshops, small group dialogue and activities (Check out the 2012 Program Outline for a complete schedule of the day), students grappled with the heady topics of bias and prejudice and how we can face them down in our schools, especially when they manifest themselves as bullying.

At the end of the day, the schools met with their delegations to discuss what they had learned, reflect on what it looks like at their school, and brainstorm ways in which they can bring the skills they learned to bear in a meaningful way meant to change. I was very proud of our delegation which had an open and honest dialogue about bullying first, but also how the "-isms" we heard about can be the catalyst for that bullying.

What really brightened the discussion was the eagerness with which the students discussed how to address the issues when they come up here at Canterbury. They came up with two approaches: Individual Accountability and Awareness.

The 28 students who were part of our delegation discussed what bullying looked like - the often subtle nature of it was a hot topic, what it would look like to interrupt an instance of bullying, and how to bring allies into the fold to help interrupt and prevent bullying. The key understanding came when they realized the exponential nature of influence (see Pay It Forward). They decided that each one of them would stand up to bullying when they saw it and would get one friend to agree to do the same. When we thought about the numbers we realized that meant 56 students in the middle school would be on board. If those 56 each got one more friend on board, that would mean 112 students in the middle school would be on board. We have 114 students in the middle school.

The group also discussed ways they could put this topic in front of their classmates. Ideas ranged from a skit at a chapel service, to a Diversity Day, to showing a video for a BIG Question, to making posters and signs for each classroom. They agreed that the key would be the follow up. There was genuine enthusiasm for the next step and we plan to capitalize on it.

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