Today was the first day faculty were back at school; the students will come tomorrow. It was a professional development day, which meant that we had three hours of diversity education in the morning and two-plus hours of department meetings in the afternoon.
And, shocker of shockers, the meetings were good!
The diversity trainers worked with us in January as well, and that was a so-so session, but today we worked a lot on privilege and micro-aggressions and the mental load of not having a critical mass of your race/sexual orientation/etc. The school has committed to improving the diversity of the faculty, and this kind of training is certainly part of that process. It was an emotional morning, but a very good one.
The bulk of the morning was an exercise in which we were all lined up on one side of our big gathering room, and then the facilitators would name a category, and everyone in that category would cross to the other side of the room (with some people choosing to stand in the middle of the room if they were sort of in that category but it's complicated); the people who were in the majority (i.e., were still standing at the side of the room), but the people who had moved could speak about their situation if they wanted -- things they felt proud about, things they never wanted to hear again, etc. We did this with various categories for over an hour, and it was a powerful experience. One major benefit is that it provided such a visual for the ways in which we are and aren't diverse. For LGB people, we had a huge number of people move across the room! Seriously, I bet the faculty/staff is almost 20% LGB. For people identifying as black/African American/African/Caribbean, on the other hand -- 3 people, 2 of whom identify as mixed race and stood in the middle of the room. So there was the one person who identifies as black, standing all alone. Uncool. (There are a couple of other black folks who just weren't there today, but still, three people wouldn't be much better than one in terms of lack of critical mass.) For Muslims: zero people. But of course we do have Muslim students, which means those students don't have a single "mirror" among the faculty or staff. We've got work to do.
This exercise also meant that now the entire faculty knows I'm converting to Judaism, because one of the categories was "Jewish practice or heritage." I stood in the middle for "it's complicated," but I explained why I was standing there. So that was a very efficient coming-out!
All told, it was a powerful morning, with only one old white guy being an ass about how all of this was created to make white guys look like jerks. I actually really like this guy, and I don't know if I was being atypically cantankerous or if he really does have this streak in him. And there are always a couple of people who grumble about whatever we're doing, so they grumbled as expected. But for the most part, people were really engaged and taking it all seriously, and it was good indeed.
And then in the afternoon, we had a full department meeting (middle school and upper school together, which doesn't happen very often). Most of us are teaching a new course this year and/or have redesigned an old course, so we had a "show and tell" hour or so in which each of us shared one new project or assignment we were doing that we were excited about. And it was quite an inspirational afternoon that really jazzed me up for getting back into the classroom tomorrow and gave me a couple of ideas for assignments I'll do later this year.
So that's a day with two exceptionally long meetings, and both of them were really good. That must be some sort of world record!
And then I came home and finished all my grading and prepped classes and in general got my shit together. I'm now going to bed at 10:15, feeling very on top of things and ready to tackle the next 10 weeks! (I just hope I'll be able to fall asleep, something I've been having trouble with the last few days.)
All in all, an excellent day of transition from spring break to teaching.