This year, a group of almost two dozen Belmont Hill faculty and staff members have begun participating in a comprehensive diversity training program through the prestigious SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) program under the direction of liaisons Mr. George and Ms. O’Connor. Last year, inspired by the renewed commitment to diversity efforts by Headmaster Mr. Schneider and sensing widespread interest, a group of faculty and staff members created a forum in which to discuss issues relating to identity and inclusion. Mrs. Sweeney took a leading role in orchestrating the three meetings that were held during the spring, and each time almost 40 people came voluntarily to share their stories and opinions. Everyone present deeply appreciated the opportunity to discuss issues important to them both personally and professionally. Building off of the success of those meetings, Mr. Schneider asked both Ms. O’Connor and Mr. George to attend a week-long SEED training program at Milton Academy during the summertime. Mr. Schneider’s previous school, Berwick Academy, had used SEED as part of school-wide initiatives, and he knew how powerful the experience would be for our faculty here. Consequently, Mr. George and Ms. O’Connor spent a week of the summer at Milton, staying in the dorms and participating in rigorous daily training activities. A team of roughly twelve facilitators would model each activity, and the teachers, parents, and administrators in attendance would then spend time reflecting on their objectives before meeting as a whole group to discuss. SEED places a distinct emphasis on talking about yourself and coming to truly understand your own role in relation to community and diversity before you can engage with others to become a change maker. Many days, Mr. George and Ms. O’Connor journaled extensively about their own identities, and came to realize that they were most blind to issues in areas where they had the most privilege. Once the attendees at the conference had done extensive self-reflection, they dove into the intricacies of making schools more equitable for all. They came to learn that things like posters of white mathematicians on a wall in a classroom, while seemingly innocuous, actually speaks volumes about systemic oppression at work. Overall, Mr. George and Ms. O’Connor walked away from the week feeling prepared to spread what they had learned to a more comprehensive group of our faculty here at school.
When the year began in September, over 20 faculty and staff members made a significant commitment to participate in the school’s SEED training. In a series of monthly, three hour training sessions, Mr. George and Ms. O’Connor have conducted activities in the MacPherson room which are essentially mock-ups of their summer sessions at Milton, but in a less concentrated format. Much like the diversity group forums last spring, these meetings have been a huge success. In the first two meetings, Mr. George and Ms. O’Connor noted that a strong rapport and trust was built, which is essential when beginning this kind of program. In future sessions, they will begin to discuss strategies to equip adults in the community with skills that will make the school a more inclusive place. As Mr. George pointed out, “the elusive thing about SEED is that it is not a program that necessarily has an end, or a goal we are trying to reach, we just want to build a groundswell of awareness and participation that will result in bettering the school going forward.”