Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Marin Academy strives to create a learning community that embraces many voices and values diverse perspectives.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are historic values of our school. We recognize that the best education occurs in a learning environment that encourages many voices, drawn from different backgrounds and perspectives. In this environment, students can better understand who they are and the world they live in. Respecting individual differences hones the tools students will need to learn and lead in a globally interconnected society.
 

Living our mission

A truly inclusive learning community engages everyone—students, faculty, administrators, staff, parents, and alumni. At Marin Academy, students and adults work together to continually push what we know about diversity and equity, and how we practice it every day. Marin Academy is not the first independent school to do this work, but we keep thinking, questioning, and creating initiatives to push the work forward. Examples can be found in four strategic initiatives:

Confronting barriers
Our Strategic Plan calls us to ensure that our entire community—student body, faculty, staff, administrators, and Board of Trustees—reflect the racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity of the Bay Area. To fully live into this goal requires us to overcome socioeconomic barriers relevant to our place and time, and to build and sustain a diverse school community that rests on a foundation of equity and inclusion. Programs such as tuition assistance, the MA Promise, and the exploration of affordability solutions for school employees reflect our commitment to this goal.

Inclusive teaching and learning
A fully inclusive learning community doesn't ask newcomers to assimilate to an established norm. Rather, each individual helps redefine and expand how we teach and learn. Through professional development opportunities, faculty mentorships, and participation in local and national conferences, we are strengthening core skills in creating open, inclusive, and equitable classrooms. Across every department, our faculty are building a toolkit of teaching techniques designed to improve the way we engage students of different educational and cultural backgrounds in their own learning journey.

Acknowledging and respecting difference
MA gives students and adults in the community opportunities to have discussions about identity factors and how they shape our community here at school and beyond. In our classrooms, we strive to ensure that all voices are respected and heard. In programs such as Identity and Equity Groups we create safe spaces supported by an adult in the community to engage in difficult conversations that respect everyone's perspectives.

Engaging with the broader community
We believe that Marin Academy is part of a larger community, beginning with our neighbors and expanding to include the global community. Marin Academy supports students, faculty and staff in engagement with the larger community, for example:
  • Crossroads/Aim High, which brings together students from Marin Academy with San Rafael high school students during a dynamic 5-week summer program on the Marin Academy campus.
  • The Community Action Program, which integrates service learning projects into academic courses and programs, inviting all students to participate in some form of community engagement each year.

At Marin Academy our diversity, equity, and inclusion work is embedded in our curricular and pedaGogical approach. 

Below we invite you to explore some dynamic examples of what this looks like in the classroom and community:
MA Science Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice during the Pandemic
MA science teacher Ellie Beyers smiling

Science Teacher Ellie Beyers

This year amidst the pandemic, social unrest, shifting schedules, and remote and hybrid teaching, many of the science faculty have had the opportunity to reflect on everything they do as educators. In the spring of 2020, emergency remote teaching forced many of them to reframe and shift their lessons due to distance learning.

The faculty provided kits for many science courses so students could continue doing hands-on science labs at home. At the same time, they all dug into current events and built their curriculum around the pandemic. Activities in the classroom included responding to racism associated with the coronavirus, exploring long-standing systemic health and social inequities that have put a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on communities of color, and allowing students to analyze publicly available real-time COVID-19 sequence data.  At the same time, students studied the coronavirus and explored the physics of COVID transmission. They examined the way decisions in medical ethics are embedded in our social and cultural fabric.  COVID-19 has made social inequities and ethical concerns more visible and urgent than ever.

Science historically has been framed as objective.  Yet, scientists are people, and science isn't done in a vacuum.  Over the last year, in particular, the MA science department has explored what's not working in science education around representation and racism and how they can teach science more inclusively.  Science is not culture-free.  The pandemic and social unrest brought to the forefront how important it is to contextualize science and engage students in meaningful conversations about social inequities and institutionalized racism.

While the science faculty had to reinvent themselves to teach remotely in the face of all the 2020-2021 school year's challenges, they also needed to adjust the curriculum to include less teaching time.  As educators, they make choices about what to include and what to omit with their teaching lessons. Techniques that have lent themselves well to remote and hybrid learning to optimize student participation and engagement also foster inclusivity.  For example, when designing lesson plans they ask—who is left out and behind? They chose to grow as remote and online teachers and actively work to prioritize equity, inclusion, and justice in their curriculum.  They are committed to continuing to grow as both science and anti-racist educators.  

 

 

Addressing the Silence Surrounding Racism Against Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities

In English III this quarter, as part of their study of Lisa Ko’s The Leavers (2017), members of the junior class discussed the rise in violence toward people of Asian descent that has been taking place throughout the last year, connecting it to the broader history of racial oppression faced by Asian Americans, and specifically to the dangers of the Model Minority Myth.  

In light of the recent murders in Atlanta, students in Nicole Stanton’s English III section also read an article entitled “For Asian American Women, Misogyny and Racism are Inseparable,” and then discussed how fetishization leads to dehumanization, which then leads to violence—and how this takes place on multiple levels (personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural).  Nicole’s goal was for students to see how oppression is intersectional and to educate students about the history and context that led to this horrible act of gendered violence. She felt that taking some time to address this issue in her class was critical, because fighting racial oppression starts with knowledge about how it works and where it comes from, and this is knowledge our students need, especially given the silence that surrounds racism against Asian American and Pacific Islander people.

  

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Creating Equity Through Understanding Privilege in MA’s Human Development
The foundation of MA’s Human Development class is built on enhancing and heightening self and social awareness. The class allows space for students to question themselves and each other about developmental aspects of identity formation, adolescence, and relationships.

Students participate in exercises that give them the opportunity to think about their identity, how it correlates with those around them, and how to visualize it in new ways. In addition to discussing individual identity, the class focuses on identity within a social and historical context.

 

Identity grahic

As they are encouraged to recognize how identity plays a role in the choices they make and how their social experiences shape how they live their lives, students can begin to appreciate how some identity groups have been historically included and others historically excluded, which has created privilege and oppression. This increased knowledge of and awareness about identity, privilege, and oppression results in an enhanced ability to discuss the inequities between identity groups. A major objective of the course is to provide students with an opportunity to engage across difference and still appreciate and respect each others perspectives.

Diverse Voices in the MA English Department

 

Gomez-Marisa.jpgEnglish Teacher, Marisa Gomez
The annual process of evaluating inclusivity and curating new content and texts to ensure diverse perspectives is a core practice of the Marin Academy English Department.  Authors and materials are continually updated, resulting in an ever-evolving and living curriculum. Students provide valuable feedback by sharing their experiences with the text, identifying what they relate to as well as any areas of discomfort, and reflecting on what they find valuable. The goal is to create a climate in the classroom where all students feel supported and safe and are engaging in these conversations. 

For example, this year the English 3 course, “American Dreams & Realities” opened with a new unit designed to support students in their conversations about race in America. Students read excerpts from Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race as well as other contemporary shorter works by writers such as Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ken Liu. Students placed these works in conversation with poetry from the "New Negro Movement" of the 20th century and discussed in class the levels of oppression and how we can create change at personal, interpersonal, and institutional levels. Other recent additions to the English curriculum include Malaka Gharib’s I Was Their American Dream and Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine (English 1); Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (English 2); and Lisa Ko’s The Leavers (English 3).

 

MA History Department Practices Racial Literacy
Chen-Candace.jpgHistory Teacher, Candace Chen
The history department used a portion of their Brizendine Scholars Program grant this year for a pair of workshops with Howard Stevenson, Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education, Professor of Africana Studies, in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods Division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Stevenson is a nationally renowned expert on racial stress and racial trauma and trains students and educators in racial literacy—the ability to identify and resolve racially stressful social interactions. Racial discourse can be so stressful physically, physiologically, and intellectually that instead of facing conflict directly, individuals may perpetuate a set of avoidance and coping strategies.
 
Professor Stevenson encouraged the workshop participants to think through emotionally stressful face-to-face encounters to help process and resolve them, and he highlighted the importance of practicing and engaging in that process to become more comfortable with those encounters and build greater empathy. He often uses storytelling, journaling, relaxation, debating, and role playing to reduce racial stress, and the history faculty recognized the value of his weaving of personal stories into the research he presented.
His work with the department emphasized that ending systemic racism in a day won’t happen, but building the management of racial stress is a daily courageous goal you can accomplish. It’s ongoing work to notice these encounters as they happen around you, as well as what is going on within yourself. By reducing teachers’ and school leaders’ racial stress, the goal of racial literacy is to provide learning environments in which all students, regardless of color, are given the opportunity to thrive.