“How Do You Teach Children Differently?”

“How Do You Teach Children Differently?”

The Together We Shine campaign supports Sidwell Friends’ goal of partnering with and learning from the communities, organizations, and institutions in and around Washington, DC. The Sidwell Friends–Howard University partnership is a cornerstone of that strategy.

Formalized in 2020, the partnership aims to transform civic dialogue about race, democracy, equity, and education among teachers and youth leaders.

In August 2022, as the pandemic eased, the two institutions were proud to present the inaugural Leadership in Equity, Action, and Discourse (LEAD) Conference, which tackled race and equity in education, systemic change in schools, and the challenges of healing from hate.

Donors like Adam Goldstein ’02 and his wife, Gaby, helped fund the conference. Long committed to programs that “foster and educate a diverse cross-section of future leaders,” Goldstein says he is excited that Sidwell Friends and Howard, “two preeminent DC educational institutions with a focus on equity and inclusion in the molding of young leaders, have joined together.”

For Goldstein, the initiative speaks to a powerful tradition at Sidwell Friends. “Sidwell has practiced a form of inclusive and anti-racist education in its shaping of young people since I was a student at the School,” he says. “The LEAD Conference will enable Sidwell to further this undertaking by exposing a large number of individuals to a broad swath of educators with a similar educational philosophy and mission.”

The thesis behind the first conference was that in a highly interconnected world, future leaders will need a deep understanding and appreciation of cultural differences. This means society, and educators in particular, must nurture ethical leaders who embrace discussions of race and equity—and who do not retreat into ideological comfort zones.

For one keynote speaker, activist and Smith College professor Loretta J. Ross, that means changing how society educates children and “calling in” people instead of calling them out— that is, broadening the conversation even when it is uncomfortable rather than publicly shaming, or “calling out,” people for having the “wrong” take, opinion, or stance. It’s a challenge Ross recognizes not everyone is ready for. “I really do see the necessity of organizing white people against white supremacy,” she said. “If white supremacy could have been defeated by its victims, it would have been long gone. It’s going to take all of us.” She urged conference attendees to think about how to “encourage white courage” and asked them, “How do you teach children differently?”

The LEAD Conference addressed that question head-on by bringing together collegiate, public, charter, and independent school educators as well as workforce leaders from around the Washington metro area to explore race, equity, and justice in school communities. The two-day event featured experts like Ross, as well as author and Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings Jr., equity instructional specialist Daryl Howard, race-in-education expert and Howard University Professor Shannon R. Waite, and journalist and Howard University Professor Stacey Patton, among others. The conference comprised small group discussions, keynote addresses, and time for participants to get to know one another.

“The LEAD Conference will enable Sidwell to further this undertaking by exposing a large number of individuals to a broad swath of educators with a similar educational philosophy and mission.

“Meaningful dialogue opened between educators who rarely have opportunities to speak with one another,” says Head of School Bryan Garman. Garman also noted that the Sidwell Friends– Howard University partnership has “truly met the mission of LEAD, by calling on schools to create more equitable educational environments.” For Natalie Randolph ’98, the Equity, Justice, and Community director at Sidwell Friends and a primary organizer of the conference, that is precisely the aim: “Hosting this conference not only aligns with our commitment to equity and justice; it is part of our goal to lift up ethical leadership. It’s also an opportunity to learn and grow as an institution.”

To that end, the conference explored themes that directly impact Sidwell Friends, including empowering different kinds of learners, working with parents, taking microaggressions (and microaffirmations) seriously, teaching counternarratives for critical thinking, providing antiracist curriculums, and preparing young people for a diverse workforce.

Adam Goldstein sees his support of Sidwell Friends and the LEAD conference as an important bulwark against “a tide of voices in our country pushing for a less diverse, less inclusive, and generally less open educational environment. Supporting Sidwell helps to ensure that the School will continue to educate future leaders steeped in an ethos of diversity, equity, inclusion, and excellence. Those of us within the Sidwell community should not take the School’s responsibility in this regard lightly.”

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