As a school, we work to provide our students with excellent academic skills and strong personal qualities that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Empathy, peace and justice are three of the many crucial concepts that are incorporated into our everyday curriculum and school life. As our nation struggles to respond to the public deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, we know that many people are having conversations about the intersection of justice, peace, and race. We are sure that many of our students have had some exposure to the conversations and media coverage. While tragic events like these are not new, the mainstream media attention seems more intense recently. It can be difficult to know how to respond in a way that will help children make sense of these important and complex issues. The emotions attached to these conversations can be strong and can lead to a polarization between people that halts further discussion and distracts from the examination of our nation’s history and the systemic and institutional nature of racism.
At NNM, faculty members continue to meet in different configurations to discuss the best ways to bring the important and complex issues of justice, peace and race into the classroom within the context of these events. Given the wide developmental ranges in our school that educates students of ages 2-14, each academic level is approaching this in age-appropriate ways. The developmental stage of a child dictates whether these recent events are brought into the classroom in explicit and intentional ways (for older students) or addressed when the question is initiated by a child (for younger students).
As we often strive to do, we hope that some of the work at school can provide an opening for you, at home, to continue the conversations and add your family’s perspective. Some general guidelines in having those conversations include:
- Handle all questions with respect and seriousness, no matter how they may seem to you. Do not ignore or dismiss them.
- Clarify the question, so that you are sure that you understand what is being asked and why. Provide information on an age-appropriate, need-to-know basis. This is particularly important for younger children.
- Answer questions as clearly and honestly as you can and use developmentally appropriate language and definitions.
- Don’t be afraid of not having all the answers.
- Be attuned to signs of upset. These include withdrawal, lack of interest, acting out, fear of school or other activities.
- Point out when an ethnic group is stereotyped on television or in a book and explain why it is unfair to stereotype.
- Take appropriate action against prejudice and discrimination. Children need to know that discriminatory behavior is unacceptable.
The linked article has recently been circulating through some of the classrooms and we would like to share it with all parents to further support our work on educating children about justice, peace and race: 6 Things White Parents Can Do to Raise Racially Conscious Children. In addition you may reach out for further guidance to Brian Corley, Diversity Director, Dr. Caroline Adelman, Clinical Psychologist, your child’s teacher or the appropriate Division Director.
Thank you for your support and partnership,
Audrey Perrott, Head of School
Brian Corley, Diversity Director
Reena Morgan, Primary Director
Anne Matern, Elementary Director
Chris Ambroso, Junior High Director