Sunday, October 11, 2015

Memories that Matter

(Stream of Consciousness)

In response to a recent discrepancy over the actual age of my mother, I find myself thinking deeply about which memories matter. This is not easy— this mental sorting and slicing, judging and reordering, prioritizing and deleting. In the process, I realize memories trigger emotions and depending on the moment some may not be welcomed. I tell myself memories are snapshots of the past framed by present consciousness (which will either dull, sharpen or distort the image) but inevitably they will still elicit emotions that may or may not be friendly. If I go a step further past my own personal experiences like my childhood or moments that define my parenthood, I start thinking about history and what we choose to pass on from generation to generation. Sayings like “Never forget” come to mind and what does that mean for our children when we bring the past to bear on the decisions we make in the present? When might it be better if we start afresh? Unfortunately as I grow older I am very much aware of Time and how Time takes back parts our memory whether we like it or not.  Some, like my grandmother, will grapple with the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s, which basically speeds up the process dramatically. If in the end we only have partial control of which memories we keep, then it makes perfect sense to consider which memories are really worth fighting for.

Life is short and our interpretation of the past is as powerful as our dreams of the future.  Distorted or not they can paralyze you by keeping you locked in a vicious cycle of reflection, regret and analysis. What did that mean? What do I do with that memory? How much changes and how much stays the same? Of course all of this thinking is really about how we forgive ourselves and others for our imperfections. Never will a memory live up to the truth about who we are because like I said, a memory is a snapshot that is framed by consciousness. Looking at it will never take into account the entirety of the experience nor honor the infinite beauty of a whole life. One moment in a person’s life is one stroke on a canvas and by looking at only one stroke one can never define the essence of a painting.

If we do not know where we come from, how do we know where we are going? Another perfectly suitable question. More than a question it’s an interrogation. I don’t know the answer to this, only that I am living this moment in life when memory seems overwhelmingly significant and insignificant at the same time. Is this just an illusion the notion of Time and memory? Is it elastic?

I have spent the last few months (or has it been years?) deciding whether or not to put my paintings back on the walls and line my bookshelves with books that are living in boxes waiting for that elusive next chapter to begin. Every photograph that documents my life is put away and the bareness of it all is invigorating.  Don’t get me wrong. I am sad. I am sad when my son leans down now to hug me. I flash back to his chubby cheeks and five year old musings. He grew up while I was waiting. I am sad to watch my little girl grow up, up, and away while my new sofa just arrived and what is the point if she is not sitting in it?  My throat gets tight when I think about those that I love passing on or moving away even though each change, each transition is also such a relief because I get tired of repeating things and there is just not enough space for new life if everything around me and inside me is cluttered and full.

I am one with the universe in my thinking. What I do with my personal selection process is what we do as a people. No, I don’t think we should forget slavery or the Holocaust, like I don’t think I should forget the moments in my life when I lived in the dark— but I can’t keep myself there. I can’t keep myself stuck in the past whether it was amazing and brilliant or dark and gloomy. I can’t think about the savage brutality of the Inquisition for example and not open my mind and heart to the message of the new Pope. I can’t pine over the glorious days of my youth at the expense of taking care of my aging body.

In this fight with Time, we have to be careful. We have to divvy up and decide. Which memories bring us closer to the infinite beauty inside us? Which memories are burdensome, keep us in a permanent, fixed stance of judgment and prevent us from healing? Which memories suffocate our creativity and prevent us from opening the door to new life?

Which memories matter?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Mindfulness for Poor People

Rule of Nature: Growth

1. Take a beautiful plant in a small pot. Water it. Put it in the sun. It will survive but it will not grow.
2. Take the same plant and put in larger pot. Water it. Put it in the sun. It will survive and grow. Watch the leaves reach for the sun!
3. We adapt to space.  Space is not imaginary, it is real-- like boundaries, private property, borders and scope of work. In smallness, we adapt by being small. 
4. Once one identifies itself as a gallon, it does not suffice a pint sized life. For survival we have the capacity to contract for limited time before we die.
5. We can shrink and expand as needed, although shrinking is painful and may cause the loss of spirit. This will have long term effects on a person's health and well being. This is the situation of the oppressed and perpetual limitation can have intergenerational effects on memory. 
6. The soul remembers space. It is like the expansion of the brain or a muscle. 
7. I am talking about sustainability and self realization. I am talking about tapping into the ultimate infinite potential of the self. In bigness, we can grow and adapt by being big. In smallness we are stunted. Look at it. It is in nature. Therein lies the rose in concrete analogy. But that of course is superhero theory. We don't want to base our theories on superheroes. We want ordinary folk to grow, don't we? Look at space and you will see potential growth.
8. New age philosophy suggests we create new spaces in our mind and that thought will manifest itself in reality. That is to say, those who live small is because they don't think, don't imagine, don't believe, don't have faith. This is a lie or a truth reserved for those who are in free space. 
9. Conclusion. There are real limitations inherent in one's environment. You can't nurture a seed, a plant or a human being without considering the limitation or potentiality of the space --see the soil, the context, the living environment. See it. Feel it. Accept it. Don't pretend it does not exist.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Common Core Dissonance 101 & the Age of Cyborgs

Tightly squeezed into a round table during a week-long Common Core institute, I float in and out of semi-conscious paralysis reminiscent of the last time I was called to jury duty. After what feels like hours (which could very well have been mere minutes), my body shifts out from under the blanket of limbo-ness and lands into a wild wave like spasm of irritability, which quickly escalates into anxiety then disgust. The descent is fast and my internal organs shake as if I’m going down on an old rickety roller coaster. I look around to find cool eyes and eager faces and wonder if I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  

It’s a drone of a lesson that transports me into a first-world-third-world classroom where students (probably high school) are desperately trying to cope with the onslaught of eight-hours a day in front of a supercilious, factory style TA (teacher professional in training) in an oppressive school designed to fix (sorry, I mean save) poor students.

Common Core Dissonance 101. According to the online Oxford dictionary, dissonance arises in the event of a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.

Education ≠ education.

After all, CCSS is supposed to be about critical thinking, embracing multiple pathways for problem solving, collaboration and other neatly defined career ready/21st century skills. Yet somehow these elements are strangely missing from the institute.

I escape the room with my smart phone in hand desperately texting with my now clumsy fingers due to the aftermath of toxic brain shocks. I see a big round clock in the corner that tells me how much time I have. I’m on the job, I think. While my mind races over a number of plausible excuses that could get me out of the next module I think about all the young people who cut class and hide themselves in bathroom stalls. I consider slipping out the back door but aware of my current identity, I choose the bathroom. I wash my already clean hands hard and take stock of my feelings. As I do, feelings slip outside of me all over the floor like rogue Slinkys and I get down on my hands and knees desperately trying to shove them back into the neat color coded box I kept them in labeled F.N.P (Future Novel Project) I think I do a good job but I get the feeling later I must have left hope and joy there. I leave the bathroom thinking hard. I lean inconspicuously against a wall and breathe deeply.  In my breath, I watch my life’s work float out of my head like a balloon. It hits up against the glass ceiling and bounces as if there is a wind somewhere keeping it high. That’s when I ask myself, What am I becoming?

No one will argue reading multiple sources will help a child draw out deeper meaning on a topic or that rigorous, collaborative tasks are better than closed answers and multiple choice. It’s not the common core, I fear, it’s the how we are doing education in this country. It’s the internal mechanism, the co-option of terms like social justice and equity, the taking over of buildings and rechanneling funding. It’s the business of selling a product that will sell well because it is a monopoly, it’s complexity separating teachers from the real world of students, it’s demonizing unions, the normalization of segregated thinking always thinking black and white, reducing children to data bytes and ruminating over and over again, what we should do with kids in poverty as if kids in poverty are drowning and we have some magical special sauce that can save them. It’s the business of orchestrating and commoditizing human beings.

But none of that matters.

I slip back into the class, my footsteps pillow soft. The drone flies under my radar like a radioactive field and attacks every cell in my frontal cortex. Our robopresenter creates complexity and mystery around topics that should be simple, practical and open for shared inquiry. She is a robomagician. I’m struggling now to live in the narrowing parenthesis of my mind, that safe space between yes and no that I told myself could protect me from being at-risk, or worse yet, implicated. A tiny echo reminds me that poor people are exempt because we are concerned with survival and that’s different. Maslow is so far away and I can hardly remember the research behind it, or maybe there was no research and it was all a figment of my imagination, that thing called self-realization.

I fight for my imagination by focusing on the robopresenter who literally transforms into a doll made of metal. Her blank stare, the repetition of her words, the inability to respond emotionally to her audience all makes sense now. There is some fun in this for a while. Then I whisper to a colleague and we share a second of freedom, but it doesn’t last long. Robopresenter is driven entirely by inputs and streams of data and she zooms in on us. I pity her and admire her at the same time, her ability to memorize. How boring it must be to be her. I disconnect by dehumanizing her further and this separation allows me to extrapolate meaning from what otherwise might have been a void. I want to live and she is death so I hate her.

Robopresenter says, we need to dig a little deeper. Her hand curls up in a half ball as if she is digging into soil that is magically floating in the middle of the conference room.  We’ve been digging deeper all day but I find nothing. The emptiness of digging when you know there is nothing to find is so much worse than hopeful digging or not digging at all. Every word, activity, tool, is an illusion. New education talk snuffs out truth, like Styrofoam snuffs out sound so that you can’t even recognize it anymore.

Why are we building more and more layers that separate teacher from the child? I see this monstrous wall that prevents any true meeting of human beings. Why do we create so many barriers and obstacles for teachers to love students? What might happen if teachers saw their students as children, like their own, with nothing between them but deep love and commitment to their well being?

It’s been a few hours, days now. I look down at my hand and instead of veins, I find tiny wires curling up through my forearm that reach my shoulders that begin to push back like a soldier. The new wired nerves in my neck stretch my mouth into a smile and I watch my arm raise. Oh, dear. Am I? Am I a cyborg? Robopresenter calls on me. She is pleased with my active participation and we make eye contact for the first time and there is a twinkle, a knowing. I thought she was dead but in this dimension she responds differently. I’ve entered her world. When did I step out of that safe space called, yes and no?

I admit, the rumble in my guts has subsided. I feel better now. My teacher compliments me. Other students in the room nod and I am feeling the warmth of belonging. My sore ass and fragmented brain begin to re-wire themselves so quickly that now my buttocks is equipped for several more hours of sitting.  My brain is elastic and stiff, greater toxic retention and stored with passivity complex.

I am an educator of the new age, getting paid to unlearn everything I’ve ever learned about learning. I am learning to think differently everyday. My life’s mission is to save children, teach them that struggle and hard work is productive.  We have to work doubly hard if we want a ticket into the American dream. I am a teacherhero who with the Common Core under my belt, can undo hunger and shoot PTSD in the face until it’s annihilated.

I am a warrior.

I feel better now.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Obama's Safe Space

Aisha Harris of Slate wrote President Obama was in the zone when he delivered the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney on Friday in Charleston, South Carolina. She also said the speech gave her hope in seeing real, actual progress. Obama’s eulogy had an equally profound impact on me. His preacher style cadence transported me to the sixties and the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. When he spoke about how God works in mysterious ways, I flashed back to that first time I heard Obama speak in 2004. It was the year I read Jonathan Kozol’s book, The Shame of the Nation flying home from Seattle to New York after a long week coaching. Whatever zone Obama was in, it must have had a quantum effect because while I listened to him speak, I was time traveling. I have no doubt Obama’s speech resonated in the same way with thousands across the globe, possibly hitting a level of intensity that can only be a quantum leap in our collective consciousness.  Is it possible for anyone to tap into that kind of zone that will translate into the change we want to see when it comes to equity?

Poor people, people of color and human beings who have been targets of hate and oppression live off this kind of hope. One of the reasons Obama was voted into presidency was because he threaded hope into his campaigning. Everyday hope is deciding to engage with the world in spite of the odds or the daunting statistics. It means keep moving forward in the face of failure or the humiliation of ignorance or discrimination inflicted upon us daily. Hope has the power to get us through it. It is predicated on faith and faith is about the power of the spirit to manifest dreams into reality. It is no coincidence that Obama’s speech resonated hope. And it was not just because he spoke about grace, forgiveness and healing. It was because he also dared to speak about our dark truth without shaming.

There is indeed a zone that Obama tapped into and we need more of it. He found himself there because of the unique ‘safe’ space he was in. And I’m not referring to the church, either because we know churches are not necessarily safe spaces. I’m referring to the space that is created when several factors converge. It is like a pathway for authenticity and engagement and we watched it happen not only to his audience but it happened to himself, in front of us. As an educator who facilitates and observes tons of presentations, I’ve always been fascinated by how some people have a profound impact on others while others seem to miss the mark entirely. Over the twenty years presenting to children and adults, I’ve come to learn that there are three essential factors that are guaranteed to move an experience into the zone, that is—to have a conscientious, authentically engaged learning experience that has real potential to ignite change.

Factor  #1. Reference our common knowledge or a collective truth. The fact is, even in a diverse world, we are all connected and together we have access to knowledge and universal understandings that we hold as truth. Sometimes this can be unmistakable moments in history but other times it’s about acknowledging the enduring universal truths that underlie all human experience such as raising a family, forgiveness, grace or love.

Factor  #2. Acknowledge how we are entangled with some people more than others and therefore understand what it means to identify with or share a common purpose. While we are all connected, we are also bound together to some by a set of circumstances, whether it is family, work, a neighborhood, a school, religious affiliation or identity. These are the groups we engage with more intimately and we are charged with the group to move ahead a shared purpose. How we manage relationships in these groups determine the outcomes.  

Factor  #3. Overtly acknowledge power and power relationships and how power shapes our society. Power relationships played out through status, racial hierarchies, class or other shape how we behave in the world and how others see us. By overtly recognizing power, people are more likely to heal from oppressive conditions and take a step towards meliorism.

Dr. Jeff Duncun-Andrade, critical educator and professor of education goes around the country saying he is a hope dealer. He knows of that great moment in teaching when we transmit hope to people. But hope alone is not enough to have the long lasting impact on our collective consciousness. If we look back over Obama’s presidency with impact on social change in mind we see how selling hope alone did not do it. It was his ability to harness our universal truths, demonstrate compassion and understanding for entangled groups and finally, for acknowledging the role power and oppression plays in society. How can we teach people to engage with each other in this way? Is there a way to develop more safe spaces that open each and every one of us to the potential of the zone?

Schools ought to be safe spaces. Education is our pathway to knowledge and innovation. As a teacher educator, I want to know how can I get teachers to live in that critical zone?  They need to know the entire purpose of their job is to inspire students to speak, write and create art that vibrates at a quantum energetic level with the power to impact the world. Teachers need safe spaces with which to dismantle false notions of teaching and learning, false notions of the purpose of education. They need to ask themselves: how can we cultivate the freedom of the mind and spirit so that we can create equitable and sustainable societies?

In my experience, there are few safe spaces in education today. Conscientious educators are persecuted daily. There is always a Dylan Roof amongst us. Knowing this, we have to ask ourselves how are we creating schools that are in the service of truth?  Is it not the true function of education to cultivate in you intelligence? And what is intelligence but the capacity to think freely, without fear, without formula, so that you begin to discover for yourself what is real, what is true?[1]

Our witnessing of Obama’s light shine out from this safe space was a historical moment. It was a demonstration of what we can do when we are in the zone. Now, each of us has to consider how to build safe spaces all around us, so that we can take hope one step further than just hope.

[1] Krishnamurti (1964) Think on These Things. Harper Perennial

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Everyday Practice

“The world may be flat as Friedman (2006) wrote, for the corporate elite, but for the rest of us— the -workers, the teachers, the wage-earners, those of us without stock options, lobbyists—the world is as round and inhibiting as ever.” Paul Gorski

In 2009, I hosted a Round Table dialogue in Harlem which brought together a group of educators to discuss the question: How can we bring together people across race and class to work together for change in education policy and practice?  The dialogue included a reading and text-based discussion about an article written by Van Jones, Civil Rights Advocate and winner of the 2008 Puffin/Nation prize for Creative Citizenship.  I was very interested in how this diverse group of people from various social networks would interact with each other in this unique space with an open-ended, exploratory task in front of them. Several insights surfaced as a result of this dialogue that I’d like to revisit today. Perhaps you might find these points salient in your own work as you try to build authentic professional relationships when conflicts rooted in race, class, religion & equity are hot topics found daily on the front page.

One of the first insights is grounding conversations about diversity and equity in a text is a powerful tool. Responding to a piece of research or literature keeps participants focused on the key issues and it provides an outside voice. This outside voice becomes a resource from the field that can offer a different perspective that the group might otherwise miss but is critical to the topic at hand. Even with the best intentions, dialogues about diversity and equity can easily go astray without the right grounding.

Second, taking the time out to have a face-to-face dialogue has purpose and value especially now when it’s so easy to meet on-line. The digital age can make the world feel small and accessible but it can also create socio-emotional distance and a false sense of neutrality. There is no such thing as neutrality in authentic dialogues about diversity and equity because this topic involves our sense of self, our understanding of the world and others and equity is about the unequal distributions of resources. That means, authentic conversations of this nature will inevitable result in a visceral response. Trust is required in order to get at the real issues that drive diversity and equity policy and practice and participants need to feel that they can disrupt the silence and declare the elephant in the room.  This messiness is necessary which is why we call them courageous conversations. It was Nietzsche who said, one must have chaos in order to give birth to a dancing star. Face-to-face dialogue communicates a deep commitment to the work because it requires more time and investment from the participants and the sponsor of the dialogue itself. It also creates the the conditions for non-verbal energies to be shared. Although not impossible, this important element of authentic relationship building can be tricky to manufacture over the computer.

Thirdly, the coming together of a really diverse group of people spanning different networks, fields, titles, races, classes, ages, genders and so on, is a rare and valuable experience. More often than not we interact with those who have a similar world view, work status, field of study or social group. How often do we have the opportunity to talk intimately around a table with a group of folks who only have that one purpose (the dialogue!) in common? If you can create this mixed group, you will see a powerful dynamic emerge. But beware. People bring their identities into the room and often we err on trying to ignore or downplay these unspoken political alliances, privileges or affinities. In order for mixed groups to engage authentically for a common purpose, each individual needs to explicitly acknowledge his or her role in society and how that might impact how they see the world and their relationship to others in the room. Doing this alone can help the group transcend real world roles and engage authentically.  

It has been seven years since that round table dialogue and unfortunately, I’ve not seen much change with regards to equity in the field of education.  Some might even argue that things have gotten worse. Segregated schools & communities are the norm in most states which translates into egregious conditions for some and extreme wealth and access for others. Thankfully I have noticed a growing body of scholarship that speaks out on the need to focus on the process rather than on content. In other words, it’s not what you know, it’s how you communicate with others and develop innovative ways to solve problems. If we are ever going stop this cycle of disparities in education, we need to engage with each other differently in the work place. It’s the everyday practices that define us and give us insight into what it means to be conscientious in today’s society. 

Educators are hungry for authenticity. Paul Gorski describes our current state of being as something of a continuum between compliance and complicity.[1] If he is correct, then there is an urgent call to be daringly different.

[1] Gorski, P (2008) Good intentions are not enough: a decolonizing intercultural education. Intercultural Education, 19:6, 515-525

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Paradox of Diversity

In 1985 when I was fifteen, I arrived to the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. On the first day, I was told to attend a welcoming event. My mother had gotten back on the train to New York City and I was left alone to start meeting people. I was nervous. This was the beginning of a very important opportunity. I had been given a chance to learn in one of the ‘elite’ schools in the country, which would put me on the path to an Ivy League university, and eventually a successful career in society.  When I arrived at the location, I found a group of approximately twenty-five male and female African American students and two Latino boys.  It was the minority group who had been recruited for having demonstrated academic achievement, many of them in spite of their socio-economic status. Some had gotten in through programs such as A Better Chance and some were well off, but frankly at that time I couldn’t really tell. Then, I could only look around the room confused. There were no Chinese or Korean. No Indians or Jews. No one from the Middle East. No Irish or Italians. No whites. The group looked nothing like the multicultural New York City that was until then my real America. Back then multiculturalism and diversity did not mean just brown people. I felt very alone in that room. I wondered where the other students were and what kind of welcoming they got on their first day. I wondered if I'd have anything in common with these students since these were the only ones I was being told to socialize with.

That was the first time I felt the sting of difference. It was socially constructed and it was real and new to me. In retrospect I realize I was sheltered from the real pain of our segregated history but that sheltering gave me something that so many of us have lost. It gave me a sense of entitlement and belonging, not as a minority but as a citizen of the American community.  Much later as an adult, I learned that these types of minority welcoming events come from good intentions. It’s a way for elite schools to create a safe space for children of color. It is part of a philosophy that socialization is just as important as academic achievement. How could the school imagine that this same welcoming event that made so many feel at home would make someone like me feel terribly alone? Was it strange to feel I could relate to any of the kids at the school, without putting heritage or social class before their dispositions? Was it strange that I considered myself first and foremost an honest girl with a precocious personality and that the thoughts in my head or the types of books that I liked defined me more than anything?

How do good intentions around diversity and equity go astray? How might our efforts translate into the perpetuation of the very biases and assumptions we are trying to eradicate? In my case, a school’s good intentions ended up setting the stage for events that pushed me to leave the academy early. In spite of my parents’ supplications, I left Exeter in search of an education experience that would speak to my social and emotional intelligence as well further my academic achievement. I never did go to an Ivy League but Exeter left a fire in my belly that became the driving force behind my life’s work. Building knowledge and authentic praxis for diversity, community and equity.  How can we build community and equity in a diverse world through education? What does it mean to engage in authentic relationships in education so that we can transcend the social constructs of difference towards a shared humanity?

According to Kenan Malik, the meaning of words related to diversity and equity are constantly being transformed. Depending on the moment, historical context and socio-political shifts, equality for example becomes not simply about equal rights or possessing the same rights but the right to possess different rights appropriate to difference communities. In other words, what are we talking about-- the right to be the same or the right to be different? Malik argues that political struggles across ethnic or cultural divisions will inevitably fragment our thinking and create more divisiveness because allegiance to certain groups in the socio-political context is often translated to funding, resources and access to opportunity. Cultural identity therefore can enforce the notion of difference because groups will assert their particular identity more fiercely if they are competing for limited resources. What would it look like if we considered a collective language of citizenship?[1]

Helen Trumbull, CEO of Human Facets argues that we are all human but we are all different. We are alike some more than others and have a natural affinity towards those we believe are part of our inner circle. She argues that in fact, the neuropathways we use when we think about ourselves are the same neuropathways we use when we think about those in our ‘group’ causing us to be more empathetic and sympathetic to some vs. feelings of indifference to the success or failure of others. Dr. David Rock describes these same phenomena in his theory of relatedness.[2] The decision that someone is a friend or a foe happens quickly and impacts brain functioning. (Carter & Pelphrey, 2008). When someone is perceived as a foe, different circuits of the brain are used as the body generates a threat response. If that is the case, human beings are dealing with deep neurological shifts when dealing with those they perceive to be different. How does our understanding of neuroscience challenge our thinking as we attempt to build a new language around collective citizenship? How can we build authentic relationships across different groups understanding these challenges? Can we practice a different type of engagement with others in order to mitigate these challenges and in doing so; build a different language and praxis that will impact thinking & perceptions for the next generations?

It seems to me that we are caught in the perennial what comes first, the chicken or the egg dilemma. We’re not sure if the language we use controls our thinking, perceptions and by extension our relationships in a diverse world (which we are now able to see in the functioning of the brain) or if the anatomy of the brain dictates how we develop language and social constructs that determine who and how we build relationships in a diverse world. I think it’s a little of both and we are dealing with a pernicious feedback loop. Fortunately, like all feedback loops, it can be altered.

First, we must heighten our awareness of how language and social constructs impact our thinking and our relationships. When we teach children the language of race (having them check the appropriate box, for example on a birth certificate or school form) then we are wiring them to think this construct called race is a predetermining factor in their identity and how they will be seen, judged, responded to, analyzed by society. After we are aware of these constructs and how pernicious they can be on the psychology of human beings, then we need to make a conscientious decision to engage with ourselves and others differently, outside the confines of socially constructed identity frameworks and language choices that constrict our thinking and by extension behavior. This is where we find the ultimate ‘paradox of diversity.’ We want to intervene in the face of injustice which to some extent requires an analysis of racial disparities and yet, the very fragmentation of this process is what perpetuates for each generation similar conditions.  

How do we begin to develop and advocate for language and practices that value a shared humanity, a global citizenship, a universal belonging? One of the strategies I suggest in my work is to provide the members of your school or organization with multiple ongoing opportunities to engage safely with individuals outside their traditional social networks so that they can consider how deeply we are interconnected and united. By deconstructing homogeneous groups and providing forums for meaningful, authentic exchange we can begin the arduous journey of finding something greater than our socially constructed identities. Only with access to multiple perspectives at all levels of an organization can we can begin to transform our language and practice for authentic community building.

Each of us can look back at our early educational experiences and find a story about belonging. Belonging is one of the fundamental human needs for survival. Each shared experience leads us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our higher purpose as a human race. We have arrived at a new and exciting stage in our human development where we have access through technology to people from all walks of life, each of us eager to share and debate issues that are so important to all of us globally. The paradox of diversity is not new but our understanding of it is evolving at rapid speeds. Approach diversity work from an interdisciplinary, holistic, loving perspective. Don’t be afraid to discuss the power inherent in language and diverse leadership, the social structures that perpetuate difference and the need to mix it up to reinvent and innovate how we relate to one another. Dare to make a difference by prioritizing multifaceted groups and giving a voice to the voiceless. These are the types of initiatives that have the most merit, the ones that emphasize our common humanity and a shared vision around a sustainable, equitable global community.

[1] Malik, K (2006) The Failures of Multiculturalism. Paper presented to the Engelsberg seminar on The Secular State and Society’ Avesta, Sweden
[2] Rock, D (2008) SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others. NeuroLeadership Journal