Lancaster Mennonite faculty and staff participated in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training as part of Professional Development days before school started this year. In Spring 2021, LM formed the Equity Design Team (EDT) from the former Antiracism Task Force. In some of their initial work, the Curriculum and Professional Development EDT subcommittee recommended providing DEI training for all LM faculty and staff. Our community partnered with Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) to make this possible.
The 2-day DEI training was led by Jacqueline N. Font-Guzman, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Eastern Mennonite University’s Main Campus, and Christine Sharp, Executive Director of the EMU Lancaster Campus. Employees were led through a series of sessions filled with activities and ways to engage with the content and build relationships with colleagues.
The training facilitators also offered a unique opportunity to personalize the topics specifically for LM. Large blank posters, known as the “Parking Lot,” were hung on a wall nearby. If attendees had clarifying questions, comments, or suggestions, they could be placed there on a sticky note. The addition of the parking lot allowed faculty and staff to dig deeper into the information being shared.
Storytelling and building relationships were an important part of the training as well. There was a session on social networks, the people we are connected to through relationships and interactions, and how “strong ties” and “weak ties” can help link and keep our networks together. In this case, strong ties are groups who are all strongly connected already, such as a specific department in an organization or a sports team. Weak ties are those who have overlapping connections between strong ties. For example, an individual who plays both soccer and tennis. This individual is the weak tie that connects each of their strong ties. Both types as well as diverse connections are important to create a strong social network.
Over both days of training, sessions focused on exploring conflict styles and strategies for effective conflict engagement, operating within systems thinking, building a just and inclusive community, identifying techniques to connect across differences and embedding DEI into our school. We’re grateful for the opportunity to continue learning and growing as a unified community.
Our Equity Design Team leaders and sub-committee leaders shared about the work each of their groups did last year and what they hope to continue for this school year:
- Equity Design Committee – “Last year we implemented a system wide survey, and look forward to synthesizing the data we received to determine areas to focus on this year.” – Lindsay Carson, Elementary Principal
- Curriculum and Professional Development Subcommittee – “Last year we focused on developing a repository of resources teachers could leverage, with some that were specific about how to talk about and do lessons on certain topics and holidays. Looking forward to continuing to review and implement more resources and a checklist to provide a wide range of representation across the curriculum and sources for students.” – Sheri Wenger, HS Social Studies Teacher
- Hiring Subcommittee – “Our committee worked on a broader reach for our job postings and building networks, as well as a continued focus on retention and onboarding employees.” – Sophie Dodge, Elementary teacher
- Student Life Subcommittee – “Last year we implemented a survey to students to gauge their opinions on specific topics, and look forward to reviewing and analyzing the data and information we received, and then developing areas we can further improve and explore this year.” – Emily Grimes, HS & MS Music Teacher
It was a great time of learning for our community, and we’re excited to implement these ongoing efforts to build an even better school community together.