How DEI is Integrated Into Lessons & Learning - Middle School
A conversation with Middle School team members about JEDI in the classroom
Several of our Middle School teachers and faculty took time to talk with me about their Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) efforts: Corey Sampson (Middle School Director), Eric Peterson (8th Grade Communications & Literacy), Susan Perkins (6th Grade Communications & Literacy), and Jake Lovett (5th & 6th Grade Social Studies). These individuals are part of our shared vision “committed to creating and maintaining an environment that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion by promoting respect and understanding of diverse cultures, social groups, and individuals.” Corey Sampson envisions DEI incorporated in our school “not just as ‘windows and mirrors’ as we often say, but also as creating a thoughtful, analytical approach to social justice issues that we are facing, not just in our world today but the world our kids will live in.” “As long as everyone is just honest, open, and genuine about where they are, what they’re working with, and they're open-minded and willing to continue to work in this, then I think we're all moving in the right direction,” shared Sampson.
Bringing JEDI to Classrooms and Life
Incorporating DEI work into your classrooms and life can sometimes be a challenge. These professionals have some great advice to share and lessons learned.
Corey Sampson: “I think it is important to know it is a journey. We can all get better and not being “there” is o.k. We can often get defensive when told we have work to do, but that’s the secret to all of this. We all have work to do. I think it is important to focus on privileges we have as much as the oppressions we face. We all have privilege and that recognition doesn’t negate struggles we have had. It allows us an entry point into this work and a place to start.”
Jake Lovett: “Educate yourself on the topics first. … Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you will mess up and say the wrong thing, identify a group the wrong way, and be clueless on how to answer a student’s question. The important thing with this work is that it is being done.”
Susan Perkins: “Just focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity, and let the rest happen naturally, which it does. I think teachers would be surprised at how easy it is to add DEI into the lesson.”
Student Response to JEDI
Many of our students have responded in such passionate ways. Mrs. Perkins shares that “some of the students shed so much emotion, to the point of tears as they placed themselves in the shoes of these characters.” She notes that they show empathy and compassion and their responses to tough subjects are something that validates her teaching and her willingness to tackle those questions. Perkins shared, “I want parents to know that their children understand it and are eager to keep the conversation going.”
Eric Peterson also notes, “kids really are paying attention. I don't know if that's just because of social media, but they're really paying attention to what's going on in society in a way that I was surprised by. I was heartened; I felt like these kids care about what's happening in the world around them.” As JEDI is increasingly being incorporated into lessons and education, students are being prepared to take these new ideas and assess action. After reading To Kill a Mockingbird as part of a recent writing assignment, Mr. Peterson encouraged students to write a conclusion that answers these questions: “What are the next steps? What can we, as a society do? I'm trying to teach the kids the impact. ... Not only does a student write this paper about racism or agism, or sexism or something in the novel, they also then apply that to real life."
Corey Sampson, shared his commitment to JEDI work. “I've been doing the work on some level for 20 years. It was something I've always been passionate about from my own upbringing and background, to seeing disadvantaged populations throughout my life, and to feeling like I received help along the way that I don't always know that others get. As a student of history, with a background in the social sciences, I see our world has been completely framed by this question of JEDI or DEI in so many ways. If we're not looking at it, we're doing ourselves and our future a very large disservice. In a globalized world we need this more now than ever.”
Mr. Peterson adds, “I have four kids of my own. It is even more important that I do this work because we have so much going on in our country. We're so divided. … My number one job is teaching empathy so that when we read a book, we can see what it's like for this character and their historical perspective.”
For more on JEDI at Aspen Academy, click here.