News and Notes from Principal Goetz

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Principal Tammy Goetz

January 2017

Dear Seward Families,

One of the best assets we have at Seward Montessori is our diversity. Currently, a little over one third of our student population is East African—mostly Somali. About one third of our students are white and another third is made up of bi-racial and multi-racial students, Latinos, Native American, African American and Asian students. We have families with two moms and two dads, we have single-parent families, families who provide foster care, and adoptive families.

I am asked on a regular basis how we as a staff work to learn more about the variety of cultures we serve, as well as about bias, equity and creating culturally relevant classrooms. I will tell you the work is on-going, valuable, and sometimes uncomfortable at the same time.

Let me describe some of the work we have done over the past few years. We have collaborated with the National Equity Project on culturally competent classrooms. We have listened to and learned from a variety of East African speakers such as Marian Hussein and Hassan Samatar. Some of our Somali families presented to our entire learning community about their experiences on topics ranging from education to weddings. Saeed Hussein, one of our Somali parent liaisons, speaks to classrooms and staff about Somali culture, including topics such as Eid and the civil war. The entire staff, including our engineers, office staff, and associate educators took the Intercultural Development Inventory—an assessment of intercultural competence—about five years ago. In addition, as a staff and as individuals, we have attended a variety of off-campus seminars; for example, every summer the district holds Race and Equity seminars that explore equity, race, and culturally competent classrooms. Last year, our school focused on Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset. This year, all of us have made a commitment to seeing our learning environment through a cultural lens.

Examples:

  • Opportunities to share built-into classroom conversations
  • Search more for cultural perspectives when structuring notes, lessons, and curriculum
  • Recognizing your white privilege
  • Purposefully putting yourself into uncomfortable situations
  • Building and strengthening relationships
  • Finding ways to connect to different cultural experiences
  • Look for teaching strategies that highlight different interactive patterns

We take this work very seriously and recognize that we are all at different places on a continuum. We also know this work takes time, reflection, and the support of our entire learning community when we get uncomfortable or make mistakes. We absolutely value our diverse learning community and our journey to celebrate it and become better because of it!

Our Site Council is also dedicated to building cultural awareness and addressing equity and bias throughout our learning community. We are planning events and opportunities for all of us in the areas of intercultural competence, addressing bias and racism, and celebrating diversity. I hope you will join us!

Sincerely,

Tammy Goetz
Principal