Why We Need to Change From Diversity to Inclusiveness

Vol. 15 No. 5

head eletter vol15 no5 diversity

The subject of diversity and how it’s approached in private-independent schools continues to be at the forefront of our conversations. Many faculty and staff members as well as administrators are interested in acknowledging and accepting what makes us different from each other but aren’t sure how to approach the subject with students and peers.

If your school is looking to incorporate more of these discussions, we suggest starting here: Change the word “diversity” to “inclusiveness.”

The term diversity often triggers visceral emotions of divisiveness, guilt, and segregation—very much the opposite impact of what diversity conversations intend to do. This is because many don’t hear “difference” when talking about diversity—instead they hear “different.” And who wants to be singled out as “different” from their friends and peers?

We’ve shared the following video from education consultant Dr. Derrick Gay on the divisiveness of the term diversity before, but it serves as a good reminder on how this term can make people feel. With 12 years of teaching experience and having served as an administrator at multiple private-independent schools, Dr. Gay understands the unique needs of our communities.

So where should your school begin to incorporate more conversations on inclusiveness in your culture?

Consider implementing social and emotional learning (SEL) programs for your students, focused on inclusiveness. Research on “Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs” from CASEL finds that there are five essential skills and competencies students should develop through SEL programs:

  1. Self-awareness: recognizing and labeling one's feelings and accurately assessing one's strengths and limitations
  2. Self-management: regulating emotions, delaying gratification, managing stress, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving goals
  3. Social awareness: showing empathy, appreciating others' perspectives, and recognizing and mobilizing diverse and available supports
  4. Relationship skills: clear communication, accurate listening, cooperation, nonviolent and constructive conflict resolution, and knowing when and how to be a good team player as well as a leader
  5. Responsible decision-making: making ethical choices based on consideration of feelings, goals, alternatives and outcomes, and planning and enacting solutions with potential obstacles anticipated

Specifics of SEL programs will vary from school to school, based on current standings and desired outcomes. But these programs can help students better articulate their feelings, relate to others, and come together to understand each other's unique situations.

Also focus on the topic of inclusiveness during professional development sessions for faculty, staff, and administrators. Ask attendees to fill out surveys in advance to share their thoughts so facilitators can prepare accordingly. Make sure attendees know that it’s a safe space to share; ensure that they have what they need to be comfortable. This topic can spark emotion in attendees, so preparation is key, along with an open, honest approach to encourage sharing and trust.

As with any initiative, approaching diversity in your school should be specific to your mission, culture, and values. But starting the conversation by focusing on inclusion is a great first step.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 11 No. 3 Should You Implement Diversity Training?
The Source for Private School News Vol. 14 No. 3 Defining “Normal”: Double-Edged Diversity Initiatives in Private Schools

Additional Resources for ISM Members:
I&P Vol. 38 No. 12 Defining Diversity in Your School’s Culture: Implications for Planning
I&P Vol. 38 No. 13 Your School's Statement on Diversity

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