By Brooke Burns, Communications Manager
Last Thursday, E-chieh Lin, our Director of Inclusion and Wellness, led our faculty and support staff in a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) workshop during the most recent professional development days, focusing on how the community can lean into this critical work over the coming year, and how to understand both our personal and institutional motivations for learning the specific skills of JEDI work.
Joining us from University Prep in Seattle, Washington, E-chieh brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the school's newly created administrative role. She opened the session by sharing about her experience as a Taiwanese-American, from her family's immigration from Taiwan when she was a very young child, and her upbringing in the United States. She learned both Mandarin and Taiwanese thanks to the dedication of her grandparents and parents, and they instilled in her a deep love of Taiwanese culture.
As she shared her story, she highlighted some of her experiences in the United States that led to feelings of shame around identifying as Taiwanese and her efforts to assimilate into her high school in the Seattle area. From influencing how much of her life she shared, or didn't share, at school, to embodying the Asian woman stereotype as quiet, happy, and accommodating, these experiences led to a profound negative impact in E-chieh's life. She noted specifically that while she would perform as a stereotypically quiet and accommodating student at school, she felt deep anger inside of her that would spill out at home.
When E-chieh was introduced to JEDI work as an undergraduate, she began to understand and identify the roots of the anger she felt inside. She came to understand that the microaggressions and the racist, sexist behavior she faced on a daily basis contributed to her anger, but also the lack of skills she had to recognize these incidents and communicate when they took place.
As E-chieh learned the skills of JEDI work – skills which she called "transferrable skills" – the anger she felt dissipated. "I went into JEDI work because the skills of JEDI gave me a life of happiness and joy in my personal and professional life that I wanted to share with everyone," shared E-chieh. "I wanted every student and person to be able to have and use the skills of JEDI." E-chieh also developed stronger self-esteem and was able to build more relationships by leaning in to JEDI work.
This joy, these skills, are all key things that E-chieh hopes to establish and deepen within our community over the coming year. E-chieh agrees with Head of School Dr. Dodge's opening address to the faculty that we are a community of joyful, lifelong learners, and the skills of JEDI are similarly an ever-deepening practice.
E-chieh led our community through an exercise called "Flow In, Flow Out" on identity sharing, which is informed by the Intergroup Dialogue Project from the Cornell University and in the skills of Social-Emotional Learning. These activities were designed to give the faculty an opportunity to share the different facets of their identities when asked to respond to a series of statements that addressed different social identities.
After each statement, faculty could turn on their cameras to show that they identified with the statement and wanted to share their identity, or leave their cameras off. E-chieh prefaced the session with the JEDI skill of suspending judgment: just because someone does or does not turn on their camera to identify with a statement, doesn't mean we immediately understand why they chose to share or not share their identity. When we ask for vulnerability, she shared, we need to be vulnerable first.
Faculty eagerly participated until the close of the session, when E-chieh confirmed that our hopes for the year are learning together and, "continuing to build a wonderfully beautiful and well-balanced community."