Virtual Gathering, Real-World Work

For 2022, Sidwell Friends celebrated the seventh annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and Learning by both gathering virtually and finding real-life opportunities to engage with the larger community.

The day kicked off with two virtual sessions: one specifically for children and one about “Educating Our Children” moderated by Director of Equity, Justice, and Community Natalie Randolph ’98. During the children’s session, young community members listened to stories about King and created artwork celebrating his legacy. Afterward, many joined with family and friends in person to prepare snack bags and sandwiches for Bethesda Cares, bake muffins and cookies for Martha’s Table, and put together toiletry kits for A Wider Circle.

Meanwhile, three panelists joined Randolph and other members of the community for a wide-ranging discussion on racism and bias in education and how to create more inclusive, antiracist learning spaces. Traci Cohen Dennis ’86, a faculty member at American University; educator Johanna Ihegihu (P ’19, ’21, ’23); and Douglas Tyson (P ’21, ’23), the Region 1 assistant superintendent for Fairfax County Public Schools, discussed the problems facing modern educators and students and took questions from the audience.

“Systemic racism just seeps into education; it explains a lot of what’s experienced not only by young people, but staff members and parents,” said Tyson. “You have these patterns of logic that people engage in that become normative and natural, and it raises the specter of there being no other way to look at the world.” He talked about how history is often told by the “winners,” which leads to an over-emphasis on the stories of cultures that have dominated others. “Dominance is portrayed as natural and normal,” he continued. “Other ways of perceiving our world are seen as abnormal and slanted."

Dennis talked about bringing antiracist education practices to future educators in her role as an instructor. In one of her courses, she invites teacher candidates to list the qualities of their “ideal student,” and then consider what makes those fictional students desirable. “As they start to unpack their list, we see that it’s basically rooted in dominant constructions of what school is, what success is, who is ‘smart,’ who is validated and valued,” she said. “We have to disrupt those problematic frameworks, beliefs, ideologies, and assumptions.”

Ihegihu described the journey toward antiracist learning spaces as one that requires continual consideration and revelation on a personal and institutional level. “Teachers need to do self-interrogation, but we also need to interrogate systems we accept as normal,” she said. “For us to see change, we have to stay conscious. I cannot just trust my judgement—I have to make choices to make sure everyone is valued equally.”

That doesn’t mean it will be easy. “This is a difficult ask,” Ihegihu said. “But difficult doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

More School News

Galaxy Quest

In the latest episode of the Lives that Speak podcast, Head of School Bryan Garman talks with Andrea Johnson Razzaghi ’78, the newly named director of the NASA Office of JPL Management Oversight at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In Tribute

Pioneering artist Sam Gilliam left a mark in life and an enduring impression at Sidwell Friends

Time to be Da22led

The latest entrants in the Sidwell Friends Alumni Network exuded radiance as they get ready to invent the stories of their lives.

Moving on Up

Sidwell Friends’ newest classes of Middle and Upper Schoolers celebrate their latest milestone.

The New Math

Layla Dawit ’22 wins an award and reflects the changing faces in STEM.