Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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

We believe equity and inclusion are at the core of our mission, which calls on us “to think, question, and create in an environment of encouragement and compassion.” In challenging us “to accept the responsibilities posed by education in a democratic society,” MA pushes our community to envision a more just world and to grapple with the inequitable systems and structures that persist around us.

These values are embedded in our teaching and learning. At MA, we recognize that creating an inclusive school is not a one-time act – it’s an ongoing process that requires continual attention and evolution. While we work to represent diverse voices within the curriculum, we also engage in reimagining our practices and culture to consider students’ lived experiences and needs. 

A prime example of this evolution is how our student-run and adult-supported Identity and Equity Groups (IDEQ) have grown and changed from their beginning. While all groups consistently maintain goals around social justice, the number and diversity of groups has changed over time in response to our student body, and some groups provide affinity spaces while others are open to the community. Our current line-up of groups ranges across racial identity, sexuality, gender, and mental health awareness among others.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded—in big and small ways—throughout our curricular program, and we are committed to expanding programming for a more equitable and inclusive school:

Below we invite you to explore some dynamic examples of how our diversity, equity, and inclusion work looks in the classroom and community.
headshot MA math teacher Rachel Kernodle

Math Department Chair, Rachel Kernodle

In the math department, assessments go beyond traditional quizzes and tests. Students in MA math classes can demonstrate their understanding by completing unit projects that offer students choice and the opportunity to apply their understanding to novel problems or to create something mathematical. There are multiple ways to approach problems and many correct solutions.

Geometry students studying area and perimeter learned about Gerrymandering and how to measure the compactness of congressional districts, then created projects drawing their own Gerrymandered districts. Precalculus students studying the graphs of trigonometric functions put their graphing skills into action on Desmos creating animated designs. In Applied Math, students held debates at the end of each unit where they developed arguments for or against a position related to personal finance. Culminating projects, rather than exams, at the end of the semester incorporate opportunities for students to create their own tests, examine their growth, and reflect on the competencies and the skills they developed.

Many of the math department teachers use rubrics for assessing student understanding of different standards or single-point rubrics for projects and debates. They do grading on teams, using common assessments, and regularly use the data to inform the planning for the next unit. All assessments have some kind of retake opportunity, so students can continue to learn from feedback and show improved understanding of a concept or skill on a retake.

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.  

 

 

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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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.

 

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).

 

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. 
The long term goal of this PLC, led by MA English Teacher and Instructional Coach Bijani Mizell, is to design a set of adult-facing competencies that complement our student competencies (Intellectual Flexibility, Compelling Expression, Demonstrated Empathy, Strategic Boldness, and Imaginative Curiosity) and reflect our best design and pedagogy practices to create personalized learning paths for our students. The essential questions being addressed are: 
  • How do we create learning opportunities for students to develop our MA competencies? 
  • How do we model these skills or competencies for our students? 

This group’s work so far includes surveying both faculty and 9th grade students on their use and experience of MA and course competencies as well as the gradeless first semester for 9th grade core classes (English 1, Biology, and Modern World History 1), and beginning to articulate a competencies "road map" for the student experience.

World Language Teacher Abby French

World Language Teacher, Abby French

MA World Language Teacher Abby French is applying her experience from two workshops with the California Teachers Collaborative to her work as an IDEQ advisor for the Rethinking Whiteness group. She attended a Restorative Justice Practices workshop for independent schools, as well as a workshop about facilitating courageous conversations visually, called "Do You See What I Mean?"  Advisors of the student-led Rethinking Whiteness group support students with planning and facilitating meetings. It takes a skilled facilitator to effectively lead conversations that are centered on identity, equity, and inclusion. 

While Abby continues to build her own skills in this area, it has been exciting for her to share her workshop learnings with students and offer them some guidance. Although she is not directly involved at the moment with formal restorative practices at MA, she reflects on things she has learned about restorative justice to guide her work in resolving conflicts that arise between advisees or students she works with. When something someone says or does causes harm to another member of the community, she sees restorative practices as powerful ways to address and repair the harm. 

A Note from our Interim Dean of Equity and Inclusion, Candace Chen

Our mission calls on all of us to see equity and inclusion work as our shared responsibility. To me, this is about how we listen to members of our community and also take it upon ourselves to do our own learning. We must feel this work is meaningful enough that we maintain the humility needed to admit our mistakes and be open to change—both in us and in the society around us.

Piya Kashyap

Piya Kashyap

Dean of Equity and Inclusion