DEEPENING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RACE IN 9TH GRADE CONFERENCE

It’s Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action and the school is abuzz with different classes digging into conversations and lesson plans about racial identity and equity. And Field’s 9th graders are getting something special—a weeklong conference hosted by (and in) their history classes focused on racial identity development, with a particular focus on white identity. “We’re trying to break through this barrier or silence there is around talking about race, especially by helping white students obtain the language to enter into those conversations,” Dean of Community and Culture Desmond Beach says.
 
Desmond has been working with Dean of Curriculum Gil Gallagher and History Department Chair Jaclyn Zarrella to plan the 9th grade racial identity conference for months, ensuring that conference is an effective extension of the school’s Strategic Plan—a big project, but an important one that they say has been worth the work.
 
“We did so much prepping for any scenario that might happen, that honestly, it’s probably going better than we expected,” Desmond says. “As with any subject, some students are going to struggle more than others with the content, but even the challenging conversations we’ve had in class have felt rewarding.”
 
Both Desmond and Gil say they’ve heard from parents that their 9th grade students came home wanting to talk about the conference. “It’s raised a lot of dialogue in a lot of places,” Gil says. And they’re hopeful that the conversations will continue outside of the week.
 
The 9th grade racial identity conference isn’t the only way Field teachers are getting involved in conversations on racial equity—students in studio arts, English, science and more have found their own ways to join in.
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