The chorus ensemble rehearses for the Winter Concert.
Message From Head of School
In late November, Belmont Day sent its largest group of faculty to date to the National Association of Independent School’s People of Color Conference (PoCC) in Nashville, Tennessee. Each year, this conference always proves extremely impactful on our attendees and, by extension, the entire community. This week, some of the twelve colleagues who attended share their reflections on this important opportunity for professional and personal development.
Reflections on the NAIS People of Color Conference
Post Date: December 14, 2018
Brendan Largay, Head of School
This was the second year I attended the People of Color Conference as the Head of Belmont Day School. As it was last year, the conference was intensely powerful and challenged me both personally and professionally as I was called to investigate the structures at Belmont Day that we hope provide safety and a strong voice for any marginalized population within our community. I was fortunate to watch the BDS faculty and trustees who were also in attendance shine in roles of leadership as presenters, coordinators, and participants throughout our time in Nashville.
This year, more than last, I felt quite acutely just how important this space for folks of color is, both to them and to our institutions. Predominantly—and there are countless statistics that reinforce this—independent schools are white institutions, and our teachers of color arrive each day living the experience of being a minority within our school walls. PoCC provides a majority space for teachers and administrators of color. It honors the challenges of their lived minority experience, asks schools to identify and evaluate the practices that perpetuate that experience, and provides a necessary refueling of resiliency, strength, and affirmation before returning to their predominantly white schools.
I was reminded that I have blind spots as a leader of this institution that I must actively discover and unpack. I was reminded that systems in independent schools were founded on
Minna Ham, Lower School Head
This was my eighth year attending the People of Color Conference. My first
This conference gives participants opportunities to grow their teaching practice, their leadership skills, and their understanding of systems. You get the chance to look both inward and outward with a clearer lens. I appreciate that I can think critically about my identity and how it impacts my work.
Betty Chu Pryor, Kindergarten Teacher
This was the eighth year I have attended the People of Color Conference, and up until now, I have never been able to find the appropriate words to express what this conference means to me. When family members, colleagues, and interested parents ask me about the impact of the conference, I always do my best to describe how the speakers move me, what the workshops teach me, and how the affinity group sessions transform my relationships at home and work. Still, the words that I sought to accurately pinpoint the significance that the conference plays in my personal and professional lives had eluded me until this year when various speakers and presenters referred to PoCC as “a sanctuary.”
Indeed, this conference has been a safe haven for me each time I have attended. It is akin to a homecoming or a reunion with family. While I have attended numerous conferences in my 18-year career as a teacher about curriculum or the craft of teaching, no other conference has made me feel more visible, more heard, more fulfilled, and more validated than PoCC. While we only see each other on an annual basis and I do not personally know all of the 6,000-plus attendees, there is a profound sense of kinship when the doors open for the keynote speaker each year and I stand looking out at thousands of faces that remind me of my own. I am no longer the only one or one of a few. There is no longer the need to shed some of my identity at the door. I can be my authentic self with this oversized extended family that has gathered for a four-day celebration, which is often marked by tears, self-reflection, joy, curiosity, and honest conversation. While our experiences are never identical, there is
One of the most moving moments for me this year was when Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the memoir, Real American, and a former dean at Stanford University, spoke about her emotional journey growing up as a biracial child in America. Haims and I grew up under different circumstances, yet I can empathize what it means to bridge two worlds even though for me, it has been carrying the identities of Chinese and American. Lythcott-Haims read from her book and broke down her experiences into nine key stages, and the one that hit home the most for me was when she described the lowest of lows—a “sunken pit of self-loathing.” She articulated how she felt uncomfortable and ashamed being black at various points at her life, which spontaneously unearthed my feelings of self-pity and humiliation stemming from being Chinese throughout childhood and even in my adult life. Imagine wondering why your
Now that I am raising biracial children, I am even more attuned to the implications of race relations and identity. After a long journey home both literally and figuratively, my husband and I sat down to catch up on Sunday evening after my return from Nashville. Among other topics, he sought my advice on how to handle a situation that my five-year-old daughter had admitted to participating in while I was gone. According to my daughter, she and two of her kindergarten classmates were in the bathroom and were using their fingers to make their eyes appear slanted. Although the details are vague about who verbalized it first or the motive for their actions, the students soon unanimously declared that they were making their eyes “look like a little Chinese girl.”
Upon hearing this story, the first emotions that overcame me as a parent and educator were that of disdain and shock. How could my sweet and compassionate daughter be involved in such an offensive act after all of our candid conversations about differences, the multitude of multicultural books in our home library, our diverse social circles, and my training in diversity, equity, and inclusion? Did she even understand that she was making fun of her own people? Or had some other children used this gesture to label her at some point and she was repeating it without fully understanding its meaning and impact? Here I was, feeling reborn and revitalized from a conference that inspires me to examine my identity and rise above microaggressions and racism when my daughter’s revelation threatened to set me back into that ditch of self-loathing. I had been teased throughout my elementary school years by classmates for being Chinese, and it seemed it was now coming full circle with my offspring unknowingly pointing out my physical differences. After allowing my initial reaction to dissipate, I referred back to what this year’s and every year’s PoCC has taught me before responding—to step back, to take multiple perspectives, to dig deeper, to ask the right questions, and to assume good intent. While I initially anticipated that the subsequent conversation with my daughter would be one of the toughest ones I have had with her so far, it was heartfelt and moving instead. This was a serendipitous event that would allow me to put into practice all that I had learned at PoCC over the course of eight years in the deepest and most personal way imaginable. It turned out to be an important teaching and learning moment for both of us, and one that I will never forget. PoCC has made me a better parent, teacher, listener, leader, and person, and has pushed me to face “harmony, discord, and the notes in between.”
Joseph Jean-Mary, Summer, After School, and Enrichment Administrator
My first experience at
As a young male of color who attended both public and independent schools, the conference brought out many emotions that I had not dealt with, or perhaps intentionally blocked from my memories as a child and undergraduate student. In this space, I wasn’t the only “only” that had navigated a predominantly white classroom, social club, or athletic team. It was a space for me to be both vulnerable and empathetic.
This conference propelled me to find my voice, which I had silenced and lost from assimilating, to fit in a box that many people of color unknowingly place themselves in when working with white colleagues. This conference, filled with dedicated individuals working confidently and passionately to make sure their negative experiences aren’t shared with today’s generation of students, is one I plan and hope to attend annually.
Audra McFarland, Director of Admissions
This was my third time attending PoCC, but it felt like an altogether new experience. My first year I was just awed by the scope, the sense of camaraderie, and the breadth of session offerings. When I returned last year, I went on a mission to attend every data-driven and strategy-focused session I could find that would help me to support our future Director of Equity and Inclusion. This year, I stumbled into November with a physical feeling of racial exhaustion.
Personally and professionally, the microaggressions, systems, and structures I must navigate as a biracial black woman who can blend, pass, and be mistaken for any number of racial and ethnic groups, had done a number on my energy in a way that I had not experienced since attending a pseudo-segregated university in the South. So when I boarded the plane for this year’s conference, I made myself a promise. I was going to attend, choose sessions, and experience the conference purely for my fulfillment. I made myself promise that I would be selfish.
The opening ceremonies, and the surprise appearance of the Tennessee State University all-black marching band had me clapping and crying at once. These students, their pride, this awakening of music and dance echoed the sounds and visions of my upbringing. I was home. And I felt liberated that I didn’t have to hide it or explain it.
As I walked around the convention center, ordering coffee, browsing books with brown characters that I wanted to take home to my little one, and meeting educators from all over, I gave myself license to drop my “work voice” with its carefully practiced tone, cadence, and vocabulary—a voice that you might call “normal,” but that I call the product of years of study, coaching, and mimicking to sound “safe” and “educated” to your ears. A voice that hides the melodic intonations of my family, a voice that means I leave a part of myself at the door.
Then, on Thursday afternoon, I finally met Julie Taufaasau in person, a doctor of education who recently defended her dissertation on “Multiracial Female Leaders in Independent Schools.” She introduced me to the other two multiracial women who would serve as my co-panelists for our session. Over lunch we laughed about the
And then our panel sat before an audience of over 120 people, many multiracial and racially ambiguous to the untrained eye, and talked about the power, the responsibility and the inherent risks of being multiracial women on our schools’ leadership teams. My mind worked overtime to stay present and to stay poised, and also to push myself to lose the content filter most independent schools require of employees of color that after a number of years you don’t even realize you automatically apply. So I said the things I knew were my truth, and hoped that my head of school, who sat in the audience to support me, could hear them. Because as Julie’s research bore out, these truths are not specific to BDS, but deeply entrenched in our country’s racialized past and present.
The outcome of that session I did not anticipate. Women in their 20s and 30s were emailing me and seeking me out for the remaining days of the conference to chat in person and thank me for that truth. Women who expressed their frustration of feeling like they have to speak for a racial group they identify with but cannot fully represent. Women for whom the notion of authentic leadership was an oxymoron. Because can we be perceived as leaders in our school communities if we don’t bend to the predominantly white cultural paradigms of our institutions and “play the game?” When you’re the “only one” in your school, answering that question can carry high stakes.
The day the conference wrapped up, I learned that my oldest friend was in attendance, so we arranged to meet for lunch. Our moms became friends before we were born because of circumstance: they had each moved to the same New Hampshire town and experienced constantly being called the wrong name. So when they saw each other in the grocery store one day, they immediately knew the name to use to greet the stranger. They were the only two African-American females in the town population of 13,000.
I shared how my PoCC experience this year was shaped by my promise to be selfish, and she reflected on how selfishness is what allowed us to get to where we were in that moment: together in Nashville, two admissions directors attending a National Association of Independent Schools’ conference, sharing artisanal pizzas.
Our moms were selfish when they sought out the best educational opportunities for us, even when that meant removing us from communities that reflected our stories and hues. We were selfish when we entered the independent school world, committed to outperforming our peers to win those college scholarships that would allow us to be among the first in our families to go on to higher education. And we are selfish each day that we enter our respective admissions offices, thinking that our work to recruit and shape more diverse and inclusive communities can better the world for our kids, whether they present as white, black, brown or any of the colors in between.
I returned to work the next Monday in my carefully curated independent school uniform with my “work voice” communicating only bright tones. But I also came with the names, emails and text messages of women who took me from a state of racial exhaustion to a state of racial empowerment; women who are the “only one” in their schools but were quick to reassure me that we existed in some small number. And as I sat at my desk, I made another promise. To not apologize for moments of selfishness because being selfish can allow you to pause, reflect, and transform.
PoCC was transformative for me this year and has recommitted me to the work of helping to make our school more inclusive and, by proxy, more conducive to academic excellence. All of our children deserve that.
Dale McGhee, Business Associate
One definition of reflection is the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it. For that reason, this will not be a reflection. Rather, I want you the reader, to absorb these words!
As you read here, you will notice that the PoCC experience means different things to different people.
What I want the BDS community to think about is what does it say to you that eleven faculty members of color went to a conference to participate in workshops and networking events, to listen to speakers, and to refill our emotional tanks so that we could come back to BDS and better support and advocate for all of our students. PoCC helped to equip those eleven faculty members to teach and guide students so they can have a solid foundation as they navigate the most formative years of their academic life.
As faculty members who represent underrepresented groups within the BDS community, we will always be here to do the work, but we need your help. We need you to be uncomfortable. We need you to lean into your discomfort and have that difficult conversation with your child. We need you to have difficult conversations with us, and we need you to have difficult conversations within yourself and be willing to speak up in the broader community. We need you to speak up and speak out when you witness microaggressions, or when demographics other than the majority are being stereotyped, typecasted, and oppressed.
This work needs to be done to get BDS closer to becoming a more inclusive community for everyone, and we need to keep the momentum moving in the right direction, so that one year from now and again five years from now, we are not still looking around wondering where to go.
We know the work may be messy, confusing, and met with hesitation and resistance. Our goal is to make BDS a more equitable community, where all voices are valued and heard. I know this work might not be for everybody and that’s alright! If it is not for you, all I ask is that you are not a roadblock. As faculty of color, we already have enough barriers to maneuver and remove so that the next person traveling through will have an easier path. As I hear the phrase “It is going to take a village,” echoed so many times about other issues in the community, equity and inclusion work needs this attention too. It needs to be the work of many, even when conditions are not ideal.
I ask you to imagine diversity and equity work as an airline flight with great pilots and co-pilots. There is a flight plan in place, with no room to deviate. The faculty of color
Second graders work together during a lesson on mapping and using measurements and scale.
This Coming Week at BDS
December 17 through 21
Tuesday, December 18
8–9:00 a.m., Grade 8 Parent Coffee, Coolidge Hall
8:15 a.m., Parent Book Group, Erskine Library
Wednesday, December 19
3:30 p.m., Boys’ Varsity Basketball at Charles River; Girls’ Varsity Basketball at Charles River; Boys’ JV Basketball vs Charles River; Girls’ Varsity Basketball vs Charles River; Fencing vs Beaver; Wrestling vs Beaver
Thursday, December 20
6:30–8 p.m., Winter Concert, Barn Gymnasium
Friday, December 21
11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m., Send-Off Assembly & Share the Warmth, Palandjian Arts Center
12:30 p.m., School closes for Winter Break (School reopens on Monday, January 7)
Parent Book Club
Tuesday, December, 18, 8:15–9:15 a.m.
Join us for a lively discussion of Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. All meetings will be held in the Erskine Library. Refreshments will be provided. Please contact Nareeluck Stephenson with any questions.
Send-off Assembly, Share the Warmth, and Pajama Day
Friday, December 21, 11:15 a.m.
On December 21 we will gather in the PAC for the final assembly of 2018 to celebrate our first months of learning together and the start of a new year. We will also hear from fifth graders about Share the Warmth—their annual collection of warm winter clothing for Cradles to Crayons.
Remembering that joy is one of our core values, we plan to end the calendar year in style! School-appropriate pajamas that are modest and acceptable for our last day of learning together,
After School & Enrichment
There will be no after school or enrichment classes on Friday, December 21. Please plan accordingly.
Kindly be aware that after school and enrichment classes will relocate to accommodate gym-level construction during the week of December 17. If you need to pick up outside of our regular dismissal times please check in at the front desk to find out where to meet your child.
Information About Parking & Traffic Flow
Now through January 7, 2019
We are finalizing details for traffic flow and parking on campus that will go into effect after we return from winter break.
At this time, we ask parents to please not use the new driveway for entering or exiting the campus.
We also ask that you park in the parking area behind the Palandjian Arts Center and in the upper lot closest to the Barn if you need to come
Thank you for your patience and cooperation!
Lunch & Snack Menu
Snack: Teddy Grahams; apples
Lunch: spaghetti and meat sauce; broccoli; garlic bread; greens with balsamic
Snack: saltines; bananas
Lunch: Breakfast for Lunch with pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, and syrup; green bean medley with carrots; greens, roasted tomato, and sherry vinaigrette
Snack: Heartzel pretzels; pears
Lunch: chicken tenders; sweet and sour sauce; ketchup; sauteed greens and diced tomato; potato chips; coleslaw
Snack: Smartfood; raisins
Lunch: chicken noodle soup; grilled cheese on wheat bread; chef’s choice hot vegetable; chef’s choice salad
Thursday, December 20
6:30 p.m. in the Barn
Need a reminder about logistics and other directions? Check them out here.
Parking: Please coordinate your plans so that the fewest possible cars arrive on campus. Parking is limited, especially if there is snow. The processional of students into the concert space will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m.
Alumni: Alumni attending the concert are welcome to gather in the Barn Mezzanine before and during the concert.
Varsity Basketball Teams Open the Barn with a Pair of Wins
John O’Neill, Director of Athletics
The Barn gym opened its doors for interscholastic competition this week and Belmont Day came out swinging. The boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball teams each took early leads against Waldorf and never looked back. On the boys’ side, Owen Finnerty buried a deep three just seconds into the game, registering the first points ever in the new gym. The Blue & Gold opened up a double-digit lead minutes after that and eventually coasted to a 48-25 win. Owen Khanna and Davin Roy were active on both ends of the floor for the victors. It was a similar story on the girls’ side of the gym, as the Blue & Gold recorded a commanding 21-point win. Elizabeth Amaratunga and Julia Clayton combined for 19 points and Camille DeStefano did a great job handling the ball. Both teams will look to continue their winning ways on the road at Charles River next week.
More Athletics News
- Henry Monroe provided energy on both the offense and defensive sides of the court during boys’ JV basketball’s loss to Shady Hill this week.
- Team captains Philippe Pitts and Dylan Skenderian have been quick studies on the wrestling mat and are eager to begin interscholastic competition next week.
- After jumping out to a 10-0 lead, the girls’ JV basketball team fell to Shady Hill by just two points this week. Kiki Friedbauer led the team in scoring and played great defense.
- The fencing team defeated BB&N 17-10 in its season opener this week. Newcomer Aviva Pearlmutter-Bearson won all three of her bouts in impressive fashion.
Middle School Students Learn Makeup for the Stage
Christopher Parsons, Theater Arts Teacher
Seventh and eighth grade students have been learning the craft of special effects makeup for the stage. Through many classes, they have learned various techniques to create effects for beauty, old age, character, face painting, and bruises and abrasions.
For more images of the students’ work, visit our website.
Take a Tour Thursday Evening, December 20
Did you miss getting a tour of the Barn at last night’s Barn Opening Celebration? We invite you to stop by on December 20, between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m., just prior to the start of the winter concert, for a guided tour.
Together We Can Do Anything! Countdown to Getting ALL IN
Trustees are 100% in and our faculty and staff are 100% in. Parents are currently 60% in. Parents, it’s your turn to get 100%
With one week to go before winter break, we want to thank those of you who have already made a commitment to the BDS Annual Fund and remind all of you what is possible when we all pull together. We hope you will enjoy the short video above.
If you prefer to make your gift in the spring, no worries! Just make a pledge today by either emailing Beth Sousa or mailing in your pledge card. Your pledge will be counted as your participation toward getting us 100% ALL IN for BDS and you will receive a pledge reminder in spring 2019. As always, please reach out to Beth Sousa, Associate Director of Development and Annual Giving, with any questions. Thank you!
Share the Warmth Donation Drive
Through Wednesday, December 19
It’s the final week to bring in your donations in support of the fifth grade’s Share the Warmth collection for Cradles to Crayons! Cradles to Crayons delivers necessities to underprivileged families in Massachusetts.
Items needed in sizes for infants to middle schoolers:
- Socks, pajamas, and underwear (must be new)
- Sweaters, sweatshirts, pants, gloves, hats, coats, boots, and shirts (gently used)
- Hygiene products (must be new)
You can bring your donations to the boxes in the lobby or the
Through Friday, January 11
Our book drive kicked off last week during the parents’ association book fair. The book drive will be part of this year’s activities to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and donations will be distributed to several non-profit organizations. Gently used children’s books in all genres and for all ages will be accepted.
Parents’ Association News
Thank you to all who have already sent in their PA dues! Dues will continue to be collected throughout the year with funds going to support our high-quality enrichment programs, provide appreciation gifts to the teachers, and help support memorable activities like the Halloween Parade and Family Fun Night.
Parent Book Club
Schedule for December and January
Thanks to everyone who joined us in November! We hope to see you next time:
Tuesday, December 18 – Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Tuesday, January 15 – A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
All meetings will be held in the Erskine Library from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m. Refreshments will be provided. Please contact Nareeluck Stephenson with any questions.
Thank you to the Straub family who supplied the Coolidge Hall centerpieces that will be decking the tables until the holiday break! We still have 5 open opportunities for others to support this effort. If you’re interested, please sign up here.
Donations Accepted Through January 25
There is still time to solicit a donation or donate an item or service to the auction. Donations will be accepted through January 25.
- Do you have an item you would like to donate or a special talent that you are willing to share with some students and or parents, such as sports tickets, vacation home, leading a baking class, knitting class, a private yoga session, etc.? Contact [email protected]
- Reach out to a potential donor and share with them how they can help support Belmont Day School. And be sure to highlight the benefits for their business by being seen by our vibrant community of over 300 attendees at the auction!
- Do you own a business, or have a friend that owns their own business and are looking to get some exposure to the BDS community? Visit our website for more information and to download a solicitation form!
Title IX Girls Running Club
Registration Now Open
This Cambridge-based, award-winning mental health running program helps girls develop the necessary skills to navigate an inequitable world. No running experience necessary. The winter indoor season starts February 10. For more information on the program and registration, visit www.titleixgirls.org
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