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Marlborough students and teachers attend the annual People of Color Conference

Courtesy of the National Association of Independent Schools Twitter

Marlborough staff and selected students voluntarily attended a conference dedicated to making independent schools more inclusive of Black, indigenous and people of color through workshops, speakers and affinity groups from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4. 

For over thirty years, the National Association of Independent Schools has hosted these annual conferences, which are offered to teachers of independent schools and a small number of students. According to their website, NAIS’s mission is to “provide a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools.” 

This school year, 11 teachers attended including History and Social Sciences Department Head Jonathan Allen, Associate Head of Academics and Director of Upper School Laura Hotchkiss, Mathematics Instructor Lisette Valladares, Director of Educational and Counseling Services Marisa Crandall, Dean of Social Justice and Community Partnerships Pamela Wright, Performing Arts Instructor Lizi Watt, Director of Equity and Inclusion Jenn Wells. Other attendees of the conference were three Marlborough students: Sonora ’21, Josie ’22 and Lucea ’22. 

This year, the conference included guest speakers, a number of workshops and affinity groups for those who were at the conference. One of this year’s guest speakers was Dr. Bettina L. Love, an author, professor and well-known public speaker on topics such as anti-racism, queer youth, Abolitionist Teaching and additional topics connected to diversity and inclusion. She spoke about Other speakers included Khyati Joshi, a scholar and speaker on issues regarding race, religion and immigration and Eddie S. Glaude Jr, a professor at Princeton University. 

These speakers helped introduce ideas around race and religion that are not usually talked about in discussions about discrimination, and brung up ways in which schools can be more aware of religious and racial privileges. 

The conference also brought together teachers and students from all over the country to meet in identity-based affinity groups, including groups for those who identify as South Asian, Asian, Asian Pacific-Islander, Black, First Nations, International, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Multiracial and Transracially Adopted, as well as a white European awareness and accountability group called “Dear White People.” These groups aim to encourage interaction between members of the same racial or ethnic group, and discuss similar experiences.

“If you are white, and you are a teacher, an excellent teacher even, but you have not taken the time to interrogate your whiteness, then there’s a real chance you may unintentionally cause harm,” Allen said. “The ‘Dear White People’ segment is an important introduction to white teachers.” 

Hotchkiss listened to many of the guest speakers throughout the conference on different topics. 

“I heard Khyati Joshi who spoke about how we center Christianity and how we privilege Christianity and Christianity as an affinity space, so that was really interesting,” Hotchkiss said. 

Those who attended the conference had over 80 workshops to choose from. These include workshops on language regarding enslavement when talking about history, racism against Asian-Americans during COVID-19, Cross-Cultural communication and more. 

Even for the faculty who were unable to attend, these conferences help Marlborough become a more inclusive and mindful community. After the conferences, faculty gather and those who attended the conference share the most important takeaways and have mindful discussions on how to most effectively and equitably teach. 

“It’s one thing to go, but then you have to have the time to talk about it multiple times with each other and share takeaways and share lessons about how that is going to impact your students and your teaching,” Allen said.

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