How do we make people feel seen and valued at Antilles?
It's a simple question - but sometimes looking at things through a simple lens can help build bigger skills, such as being able to listen to others and value their perspectives, according to Dr. Liza Talusan, who led discussions with students and faculty last week on how we can create and be a more inclusive community.
"In a big group, not everyone may get the chance to share, for example, so giving students the chance to think about what it means to have time to talk and have someone actively pay attention to what they have to say is actually one small thing we can all do to be more inclusive," Dr. Liza said.
Trying this out, Middle and Upper Schoolers partnered up in two workshops and took turns answering questions about things that are meaningful to them, and listening to their partners. How would you describe your island, or your school, or place that is special to you, students were asked - and, of course, every answer was different.
"And so, they are listening to each other, making someone else feel special for the one or two minutes they are talking - but they are also embracing a new perspective," Dr. Liza said. "One student's special place would not be the same as another's, but both have value - and in just that one conversation, you're now building another skill, and that is being able to see what someone else sees and being mindful that there is always going to be another point of view."
Discussions with Upper School students were more pointed, giving partners the chance to additionally talk about identity, and what it means to feel included or excluded by a different group. Students are already having these conversations on their own, Dr. Liza said, but giving them a forum in which they are able to share individual experiences helps others connect to what they are going through - and space to find solutions that can benefit everyone.
"Inclusion means action," Dr. Liza said to faculty in an afternoon professional development session, where she shared pieces of the students' discussions. "We can't just hope inclusion will show up - you have to actively think about how you want to talk about inclusion, how you can facilitate those discussions, and frame them in a way that can actually inspire change."