James Baldwin once said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” It is therefore our task as educators to demonstrate by our words and our actions that hate has no place in our community. As the country roils in protests over the death of George Floyd, and the many others, we at the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School stand firmly with those demanding accountability and justice and against systems of racial oppression.
As a community working with children, these events highlight even more the urgency of the work we must accomplish–as a school and as individuals–to lead our children on the path of anti-racism.
-The HVWS Diversity Committee and College of Teachers, June 2020
The Housatonic Valley Waldorf School community is a unique and ever-evolving tapestry that weaves together people from diverse social, economic, and international backgrounds with different beliefs, racialized and gendered identities, family structures, abilities, and life experiences. We are committed to respecting and honoring these differences in the life and activities of our school responsibly, with clarity, historical accuracy, and purpose.
There are many privileges associated with being an independent school. With those privileges come both a responsibility and an opportunity to make HVWS accessible and to establish relevant and continuous dialogue in our classrooms, within our faculty, and amongst parents and the extended community. The Housatonic Valley Waldorf School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee is active and works hard to provide relevant and timely resources including:
- Information and curriculum development materials.
- A growing library of diverse literature.
- Community events and collaborative projects in support of diversity and inclusivity.
- Opportunities for education, study, and training to our faculty and parents.
Our Faculty and Staff:
Fundamental to Waldorf education are a cultivation of trust, personal responsibility, and self-reflection. As conscientious role models to our student body, HVWS faculty and staff work very hard together daily through critical self and group reflection to ensure that no individual, nor any group, is left out, tracked, neglected, or otherwise alienated. We do not avoid conversations; we have conversations, even if they are challenging, in order to promote a healthy environment for everyone.
Our Students and Families:
HVWS aims to develop a healthy social consciousness within each student. Pedagogically, Waldorf education encourages a critical consciousness by nurturing students’ inherent curiosities, helping them to develop critical reasoning skills, and promoting a consciousness among students that is both empathetic and socially responsible. In addition to the work in the classroom, HVWS parents play an important part by sharing their unique cultures and lived experiences with the school. We see the active contributions of our families as vital assets to deepening our understanding and appreciation of each other.
Honoring and exploring diversity is an essential strength to both our community and the education we offer. Students benefit from a deep and rich understanding of the world that is inclusive of all perspectives and experiences.
HVWS in Action:
In 2018 HVWS was awarded a generous, multi-year grant from the NoVo Foundation to support diversity and SEL initiatives. Using a portion of these funds in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, the HVWS DEI Committee worked in consultation with our teachers and a local bookseller, Byrds Books, to purchase more new books to add to our classroom readers and library. We plan to continue this work in the 2020-21 school year.
Over the past few years we have sent several faculty and staff to trainings with the Center for Racial Justice in Education. We had an in-person training scheduled for all faculty and staff in March of 2020 which was interrupted by the pandemic. We will now welcome the Center virtually during the 2020-21 school year. “The Center for Racial Justice in Education’s mission is to train and empower educators to dismantle patterns of racism and injustice in our schools and communities. At the Center for Racial Justice in Education, we envision a world where all young people learn and thrive in racially equitable, liberating, and empowering educational spaces.”
In 2019 the DEI Committee launched “Deepening the Dialogue,” an ongoing series of discussions around issues of diversity and inclusion.
- April 2019: Centering Justice and Joy in Your Child’s Library with Zetta Elliot, PhD. Dr. Elliott read to students during the day and presented to parents in the evening. Her interactive presentation demonstrated how inclusive books can foster cross-cultural understanding at an early age.
- February 2019: Dimensions of Gender, an evening of voices, education, and conversation about gender identity. Our guest speakers—educator Jessica Ann Vooris, student and activist Leah Juliett, and volunteers from the Stonewall Speakers—addressed questions such as What is gender? How do I talk about and understand gender variance? How can I help create a more inclusive environment for children and adults? Stonewall Speakers, a program of the not-for-profit Connecticut Stonewall Foundation, Inc., is a volunteer speaker’s bureau comprised of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and their allies. Their speakers share their hearts, stories, and time to help eliminate hate and promote understanding. Speaking engagements combine personal life stories with a judgement-free question and answer session. They first visited HVWS in 2014.