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Career Story: Director Of Diversity At An Episcopal School

Director Of Diversity At An Episcopal School

Job Title: Director Of Diversity

Type of Company: I work in an independent Episcopal school that serves approximately 800 students in grades 1-12.

Education: BA, Liberal Arts Honors, Plan II, University of Texas at Austin •• MA Teaching, Boston University, with Massachusetts Teaching Certification in Secondary English Education

Previous Experience: I taught for 15 years in public and private schools, predominately grades 6-11, and primarily integrated Literature and History (U.S.). I also served on Diversity Committees, Strategic Planning, Committees, Admissions Committees, Professional Development Committees, and Technology Committees in the three schools where I worked over those 15 years.

Job Tasks: My traditionally white, upper-middle class school is becoming more diverse, especially in the areas of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economics, ability, and family structure. Sometimes, because of assumptions made or lack of experience, differences create conflict instead of enriching the community. I work to build understanding, communication, and authenticity. My job touches all aspects of the school:

- I serve on the admissions committees to recruit and admit students from diverse backgrounds who will be successful at our school.

- I help new students and families to understand the culture of the community so they can participate authentically and appropriately. I meet with students, teachers, and families when concerns arise, particularly when those concerns result in obstacles to the students' social or academic success.

- I provide opportunities for students to learn about and honor difference. That happens in small group meetings, classroom community time, or large-scale community events.

- I work with the administration to help recruit, hire, and equitably support a diverse faculty and staff by being part of the interview process and helping with new faculty training and orientation.

- With the administration of the school, I plan professional development and attend faculty meetings to train and support faculty and staff to help them to be sensitive to and honor differences in interactions as well as through curriculum.

I meet with and support various Diversity Committees where community members can communicate with me and plan events: Parents' Council Diversity Committee, Upper School Faculty Diversity Committee, Upper School Student Diversity Club.

I also chair the Diversity Advisory Team, a representative group of parents, faculty, staff, and administrators, that advises me in planning events and trouble-shooting diversity issues throughout the school.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job are the conversations I get to have with people in our community. Everyone has a story to tell about who they are and why they're here; my job is to listen.

The worst part of my job is that my job requires me to be an idealist, and when conflict occurs, it is usually pretty ugly -- those conflicts are often based in bigotry, negative assumptions or stereotypes, or outright hatefulness. Confronting and addressing that kind of perspective is incredibly difficult and sometimes devastating.

Job Tips: Tip 1: You cannot take conflict personally. The stories you hear, good and bad, are not about you; they are about the experiences of the people involved. Just listen.

Tip 2: You will not be able to fix every problem, change every mind, or open every perspective.

Tip 3: Do not make promises or give ultimatums if you are not willing or able to follow through.

Additional Thoughts: Positions in the field of diversity, whether in schools, the corporate world, or non-profits require a balance of professional and personal preparation. Take course work in multiculturalism, multiple perspectives, conflict resolution, and organizational culture and behavior. But also spend some time in self-examination -- know your own prejudices, where they come from, and how to manage them. Work through your own "hot button" issues and pet peeves. Unlike any other line of work, this one is bound to push your buttons; you do not want that to derail the progress you make.

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