When it comes to diversity and equity, are we aiding to the single story or expanding student perspective?
That question both opened and closed a training session for Todd and Briarcliff Middle School staff last week.
Todd Assistant Principal Anne Marie Foley and Briarcliff Middle School Assistant Principal Amy Gladstone developed and facilitated the training.
“We began the work with an ice breaker around the origin of our names and then worked in groups in breakout rooms via Microsoft Teams – we mixed middle school and Todd faculty together,” Ms. Foley said. “The groups read an article and had a rich conversation around identity and biases. We focused on the importance of understanding our students’ identity which makes us better advocates for our students,” she added.
The training continued with the participants watching a TED Talk called “The Danger of a Single Story” by author Chimimanda Adichie.
“Our goal for the joint workshop was to explore the “single story” theory so after reading and discussing the article, we watched the TED Talk, which was very powerful,” Ms. Gladstone said.
In the TED talk Ms. Adichie discusses how when you create a single story you show a group of people as only one thing over and over. She used African people as an example. Many think that all people in Africa are poor, constantly fighting senseless wars and waiting for the white person to save them, she said. But according to Ms. Adichie, the single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete – they make one story become the only story.
Ms. Adichie went on to say in the TED Talk that to insist on a negative story flattens the experience and overlooks many other stories. Therefore, the consequence of the single story is that it robs people of dignity and emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.
While stories can destroy the dignity of a person, Ms. Adichie said they also can be used to empower and humanize people and repair the dignity of a person. Ms. Adichie concluded the talk by stating that when we reject the single story, when we realize that there was never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.
At the end of the video, Ms. Foley and Ms. Gladstone concluded the session by asking the question that they had asked at the beginning of the session: as educators, are we aiding to the single story or expanding student perspective?
The rest of the day was used as self-directed time spent working on the curriculum with colleagues.
“We wanted to encourage the staff to use that question as they dive into their planning,” Ms. Gladstone said. “Anne Marie and I wanted this workshop to ignite the conversation of equity among our faculties, and serve as a steppingstone to the work the middle school and Todd will engage in during our Implicit Bias Training with Dr. Marks on April 13. We also saw this as a chance to bring our staff together and strengthen the alignment from kindergarten through eighth grade,” she added.