February Diversity Forum Series training focuses on conversations about presidential election

Upper+School+Diversity+Dean+Karen+Dye+looks+over+the+August+Diversity+Forum+Series+training+handouts+in+her+office.+The+upcoming+February+training+aims+to+give+faculty+and+staff+%E2%80%9Cmore+specific+tools+and+strategies+about+having+conversations+with+students%2C%E2%80%9D+Dye+said.+

Noor Qureishy

Upper School Diversity Dean Karen Dye looks over the August Diversity Forum Series training handouts in her office. The upcoming February training aims to give faculty and staff “more specific tools and strategies about having conversations with students,” Dye said.

Noor Qureishy, Managing Editor

Following the presidential election, many students expressed feelings of worry, sadness, and anger in and out of school. In response to the student body’s need for support, Upper School Diversity Dean Karen Dye decided to focus this year’s Diversity Forum Series, which consists of three professional development workshops for faculty and staff on diversity and inclusion at SPA, on having difficult conversations with students.

[The February training is] around conversations and having conversations with students about issues that are important – [the election is] inevitably what it’s going to be about.”

— Upper School Diversity Dean Karen Dye

Although these workshops were not originally intended to be a response to students’ feelings about the election, Dye thinks that they will be especially useful to faculty who may be having trouble talking about the election in class.

“We’ve been having a lot of conversations, formally and informally with our leadership team, about how students are doing and ways to support students,” Dye said. “[The February training is] around conversations and having conversations with students about issues that are important – [the election is] inevitably what it’s going to be about.”

Dye doesn’t want the discussion around the election itself to be teacher-driven; she believes that dialogue should come organically from the students instead, while teachers play more of a supporting role.

“We wanted [discussion] to be more student-driven – we didn’t want to come in as a body of teachers and be like ‘this is what you’re talking about,’” she said.

The faculty and staff have already completed the first two parts of this year’s Diversity Forum Series. The first one, a two-day workshop called “Courageous Conversations,” was in August, and it was meant to lay the groundwork for faculty who were struggling to talk to students. The second one occurred in October, and it focused on self-reflection.

“October’s training was about helping teachers get to a place where they’re comfortable talking about the election,” Dye said.

The upcoming February training aims to give participants “more specific tools and strategies about having conversations with students,” Dye added.