A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the NEO Diversity in Education Fair for the first time. To be honest, I fell in love with the event prior to attending because it’s sole purpose is to promote diversity then (unlike other career fairs), provide job opportunities. It’s a great concept and a great event. My only thought as I walked away, was that more people need to be in the room. More people need to know about this event and take advantage of the opportunities presented by so many institutions. Why is this important to me? because REPRESENTATION MATTERS!
Of course we all say that, but what do we do to implement that? What do we do to make sure that happens in our school districts? not just in the classroom, but in various leadership positions from administrators to athletic coaches? what are we doing to put our words into action? what are we doing to make sure students see people who look them in the hallways. Well, we can start by attending the NEO Diversity in Education Fair.
My last post was to explain why this event is important to the community, and how anyone looking for a job could find an opportunity in education. In that article I also shared my perspective as a student who had two different experiences in public school and private- one with leadership that looked like me, and one without. I even shared my experience as a parent, with a child currently in the 6th grade, who has never had a minority in leadership (in any capacity in his educational settings) I know I know, I get angry every time I type that. Before you go any further, just go read it A Career Fair With Purpose: Providing Jobs and Promoting Diversity then come back!
Honestly, after attending this event, and talking to different representatives from public,charter, parochial and independent schools in the region- I am further convinced that REPRESENTATION matters most in education. In my opinion it really affects who students become! Their daily learning environments and social interactions mold them personally and professionally – it shapes their perspectives and viewpoints. As we all know students spend more time at school than at home right? (and yes learning and education happens at home but let’s agree a large part happens at school). The reality is diversity is more than education and it’s also important not just for the students but for the staff as well. It’s not just what they learn, how they learn, and who they learn from.
The agenda was short and sweet, which I enjoyed. After registration and a continental breakfast, candidates were ushered into an auditorium for the School Leader Panel. This was a great way to start the day because various leaders shared perspectives on the importance of having a diverse faculty in schools. On the panel was Terricita Thomas (Dean of School Culture, Breakthrough Schools, E Prep Willard), Ann V. Klotz (Head of School, Laurel School) and D. Scot Looney (Head of School, Hawken School) and it was moderated by Janice A. Eatman-Williams (Director, Wrap-Around Strategy and School Based Outreach, Case Western Reserve University). I think hearing this panel provided candidates validation that they were here for a reason and it gave specifics to what those reasons were. Not only that, it showed why certain institutions value diversity and how by attending events like this, they are committed to doing the work to ensure that happens. At the end the of the panel the audience had a chance to ask questions which I felt made it even more powerful.
A few topics that stood out to me were:
1. Diversity in education means providing a safe environment for students.
2. Diversity allows for students to feel comfortable and free to be themselves (providing relate ability)
4. Diversity is important for institutions but they must create an environment where candidates and students feel welcome, accepted and respected.
While candidates enjoyed this panel, representatives from the various schools had the opportunity to participate in an optional workshop about diversity with David Peake (Shaker City Schools) and Lisa Vahey (LV Consultants).
Once the panel and workshop ended, candidates were escorted to a meet and greet with more than 20 institutions with informational tables. Candidates had the opportunity to move freely throughout the room, asking questions and stopping by tables that interest them. What I appreciated most was that certain schools and districts had minority representatives at their tables so candidates could actually ask what it’s really like working at that school or district. If a connection was made, the institution set up an interview for after lunch. It was a fairly quick process to get your foot in the door. The opportunity was there, you just had to be confident and go after it. Of course, attending didn’t guarantee a job, but your willingness to attend, and present yourself- gives you an opportunity! It’s a great first step especially if your desire is to work in education. Not just to be teacher, but to possibly be an administrator, instructional coach, athletic coach, technology support, or operations team members. It’s a chance to be intentional about what you want to do (bring diversity) , and where you want to work (in education). I encourage you to attend this event next you or to share this event with someone you know.
Ultimately it’s the chance to make a difference.
It’s a chance to find a job.
It’s a chance to prove how much diversity and representation matters to you!
*This post is sponsored through a partnership with Hawken School. These are my real views and opinions.