What is DEIJ?
DEIJ stands for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice and is a practice that aligns with MYIS’ mission to develop a caring community that moves together to celebrate and respect people from all cultures. The school’s commitment to DEIJ also correlates with IB’s value of international mindedness: “An internationally minded person is open-minded about the common humanity of all people and accepts and respects other cultures and beliefs. The internationally minded person takes action through discussion and collaboration to help build a better and peaceful world.” As a school we strongly believe in the fair treatment of all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, clan or national origin.
Why do we value DEIJ?
One of the most important outcomes of DEIJ is that it ensures all students at MYIS feel seen, heard and valued. They see people that look like them in the books they read. They are involved in making decisions for their classroom community. Their home language and culture is celebrated and embraced. We also believe that learning about different people and cultures helps support students’ exploration of identity and strengthens their self-esteem. We want all children to feel comfortable and safe to explore all the different parts of their unique identities and for them to know that differences are not bad. Furthermore, we strive to educate and guide students in being socially aware, caring, global citizens who can communicate and collaborate with others from different backgrounds and take action as part of a peaceful community.
What does this look like at MYIS?
In all classrooms at MYIS from the youngest learners to the oldest, DEIJ is intentionally integrated into the environments, curriculum, resources, planning, and communication. Though this may look different at each grade level the main goals remain the same:
A- Affirm Identity (Who is visible? How are they seeing themselves?)
B- Build Community (Shared responsibility)
C- Cultivate Learner Agency (Empowerment)
As educators we collaborate within our community to plan meaningful and authentic experiences while reflecting on these ABC’s. This is integrated into 5 main components of our teaching and learning:
- Language & Interactions: We speak and listen with intention and respect. We create a safe space that allows for discussions around challenging and complex topics such as race and gender stereotypes.
- Resources & Materials: We carefully select resources and materials that present diverse people and perspectives, and do not reinforce harmful stereotypes.
- Classroom Community: We work alongside students and families to build a supportive community, where all stakeholders have opportunities for choice and ownership.
- Learning Environments: We create learning environments where every child is represented and plan provocations that support all types of learners.
- Promoting Action: We encourage students’ inquiries and challenge them to problem-solve and take action in helping themselves, others, and their communities.
What can families do at home?
The most impactful step you can do at home to support your child’s growing understanding of the world and their role in it is to have meaningful conversations with them about different perspectives.
- Children are naturally curious and will often ask questions about skin color, gender, different families, cultures, etc… We want children to feel comfortable asking these questions. These topics should not be avoided or ignored, as it can lead to forming stereotypes, misunderstandings, and harmful biases. If your child asks you a question you are uncomfortable with, it is ok to not answer the question immediately, but we do not want the child to feel shame for asking questions. Instead of responding in shock or embarrassment, you can say in a calm voice “That is an interesting question. I would like some time to think about it.” Then you can revisit the conversation after you have done some reflection and maybe some research so that you feel ready to have an open and honest conversation. MYIS teachers are also here to support you with this and are happy to offer guidance with these conversations.
- Using language with your child that respects and includes all people is another way you can help at home. When talking about a group of people use “some” or “sometimes” to help avoid generalizations. For example: “Some boys have short hair, some boys have long hair”.
- Talk about skin color in ways that are authentic to your child. It can be as simple as “I notice your skin tone has more pink in it, and mine has more brown.” or “You noticed that this person has a darker skin tone than you, you are also a shade of brown, you are noticing the different shades of brown we all are”.
- Read books with your child that show different types of people. Work with your child to look at the books they have at home and think about the characters in the stories. Are different voices represented? Who’s story is missing? The MYIS Library has a wealth of diverse stories and authors you are welcome to borrow! Teachers can help you find the right books for the topic or perspective your child is interested in.
Liz Kleinrock: Teach & Transform