What Is and Isn’t Being Said

*this is the third of what is looking like 5 reflections from NAIS’ People of Color Conference in Washington, DC. If you teach at an Independent School and haven’t been here, get on it.

On the first day I went to what turned out to be the only real “workshop” session I went to.  It was called “What Is and Isn’t Being Said: Interrogating Academic Expectations for Students of Color in Independent Schools.”  It was put on by Elizabeth Denevi, Latin School of Chicago (IL) and Mariama Richards, Ethical Cultural Fieldston School (NY), who both seemed super awesome. They were both independent school educators who were also pursuing (or finishing) higher ed degrees which made me immediately feel for them as that time commitment doesn’t mess around.

I spent this workshop writing down quotes they said so I am going to just write them down and maybe a little commentary but in general I’m going to leave it to you. (also I missed the start of this so I have maybe only 3/4 of the session)

“The things we are telling our [students of color in their comments] mean nothing.”

“Stop saying ‘come see me’ it is useless.”

She also said that if they come twice in that vague time you gave them and you aren’t there then why should they bother?

Students are ranking the amount of time they spend on work at a 8-9 out of ten but if you ask them how they can do better they consistently say, “I need to try harder.”

“That’s where they find success.”

Here is where I may have yelled “YES!” Are you seriously telling me that we are letting them keep doing sports because they only find success there?  No one is talking about the fact that they aren’t finding success at all in academics????

“I am surprised I am in honors chem since I am not good at science.”

Be specific in all feedback.

Leave the kids alone.  “What are we doing with our teachers?”

When you only have a few students of color. “The success and failure of the whole group falls on the shoulders of each of them.”

“Grades should indicate mastery.”

Again, “Get the teachers!!”

There is a lack of communication with parents of color.  Things like, “Well his parents will get really mad if we call.” or “A C is not bad.”  Parents who send their kids to independent schools are generally not okay with C’s.

“Diversity Coordinators need to be masters of their subject area.”  They also need power, money, and cooperation.

When does code switching become too much?  When students start to lose track of who they are.

 (If you don’t know about code switching start googling.  I would give you readings but I am not the most educated on this.  Recommendations?  Leave them in comments! Thanks)

“It is unfortunate that [some students] have to live this way when others do not.” -on code switching

“Over 70% of students of color say they are working hard not for the grade but for the teacher.”

Explore your expectation gap.

Watch out for AP and Honors classes as gate keepers.

“What does it mean to have a social justice focus?”

“A Diversity Director without power is White privilege.”


As you can probably tell I loved this workshop.

Here some things I intend to google that were mentioned:

easted.com and the AISNE

Patricia Gurin at U-Mich

TESA (Teacher expectations and Student achievement)

Nutureshook – a book mentioned 4 times this weekend.

The White Privilege Conference at Brooklyn Friends


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