The forging of meaningful relationships among faculty and students is a time-honored hallmark of the Blair experience. This year, faculty members are working to further enrich relationship-based learning at the School through the efforts of two groups, which were formed to explore the makeup of life at Blair and determine ways in which faculty and students can gain deeper understanding of one another.
Assistant Head of School & Dean of Faculty Lorry Perry, a 15-year independent school veteran who joined Blair’s faculty in summer 2016, launched the Inclusivity Committee at the start of the school year, giving faculty, staff and students a new venue in which to learn about the Blair community and discuss ways to further strengthen it. The School’s Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) group was founded in 2016 with a mission to embrace self-reflection and dialogue among faculty and staff to promote empathy and understanding within the community. Led by Dean of Teaching & Learning Gwyneth Connell and Associate Dean of Admission Leucretia Shaw, Blair’s contingent of the larger National SEED Project works to promote equity, diversity and respect for others through professional development seminars.
New Avenues for Conversation & Collaboration
Through the creation of these groups, faculty members are exploring new ways to foster dialogue about emotional and societal issues that can affect how relationships are formed within the Blair bubble.
By establishing the Inclusivity Committee, which meets roughly once a month, Ms. Perry hopes to motivate “productive conversations around topics or issues that, if not discussed, could keep us from forming the kind of community I think we're finally after, here.” In September, the committee highlighted a desire among its members to talk about racial and ethnic differences and what the community can do to encourage equity and champion diversity on Blair’s campus.
Committee members were active participants in the School’s weeklong celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy in January, and they continued discussions that took place in a variety of seminars in Blair’s classrooms. Though the committee is not currently focused on particular projects or ways to measure their progress or success, its members will continue to share conversations with the larger faculty and student bodies throughout the remainder of the year, Ms. Perry said.
“Ultimately, we will look into changes that could be made institutionally or culturally to allow us to be a better community for everyone here,” she added.
Self-Reflection & Professional Development
The SEED group meets for a three-hour seminar each month, at which 12 faculty and staff members embrace the program’s peer-led professional development training tactics to build self-awareness and empathy. The goal, explained Mrs. Shaw, is to better connect faculty with one another and to better serve an “ever-more-diverse” student body.
Like the Inclusivity Committee, their work is not project-based, Ms. Connell added, but as more faculty and staff undergo this training, they hope “SEED alumni” will fan out across campus as ambassadors who encourage respect for equity within the greater community. And, down the line, she and Mrs. Shaw hope to create similar opportunities based on the SEED methodology for groups of students interested in these issues.
The Reward of Meaningful Relationships
While their successes are not quantifiable just yet, Inclusivity and SEED members hope all who participate will walk away with a stronger skillset for empathizing with others, which will ultimately allow them to create stronger, more fulfilling relationships in and out of the Blair community.
Ms. Perry noted that of the many takeaways from her work with the Inclusivity Committee, one of the most striking is how many community members show care and personal investment in making the Blair community more dynamic, more engaging and, ultimately, more inclusive.
Ms. Connell and Mrs. Shaw echoed that sentiment. “Anyone who chooses to participate will be rewarded with stronger relationships and a deeper understanding of themselves and one another, making them a more effective teacher, coach, advisor, houseparent, colleague and friend."