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Reinforcing Resilience and Inclusion through Empathy and Reflection

As many in the Taipei American School community are aware, the School has been conducting much important work in the areas of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion since the formation of the JEDI committee last school year. As part of this larger commitment, TAS recently partnered with the TAS Cultural Committee (TASCC), a parent-led group created last spring that aims to works with TAS to create a space for parents to engage with one another on these and related issues. 

The purpose of this group and the webinar specifically, according to co-chairs Reed Aitken and Shelley Lin, is to "listen," "grow," and "connect." After a series of TAS speakers, the event culminated in small-group breakout discussions where participants could hear and interact with people who may have different perspectives from their own.

The event was run from within the anti-bias and social justice framework as devised by Derman-Sparks & Olsen-Edwards (2020). In this framework, there are 4 major goals for anti-bias education, and this framework applies to both school-aged children and adults, too. 

  1. Goal 1: Identity. Increase your awareness and understanding of your own individual and social identity in its many facets and your own cultural contexts.

  2. Goal 2: Diversity. Examine what you have learned about differences, connections, and what you enjoy or fear across all aspects of human diversity.

  3. Goal 3: Justice. Identify how you have been advantaged or disadvantaged by the -isms (ableism, classism, heterosexism, racism, sexism) and the stereotypes or prejudices you have absorbed about yourself and others.

  4. Goal 4: Activism. Explore your ideas, feelings, and experiences of social justice activism. Open up a dialogue about these goals, and develop the courage to model for children that you stand for fairness.

Head of School Dr. Grace Cheng Dodge opened the event with a welcome focusing on what she called "uncomfortable" but important reflection. "We started huge initiatives last year, digging into the uncomfortable, in topics such as justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We continue to recognize that JEDI work is closely tied to our work on social-emotional wellness," said Dodge. "A student cannot learn if they are not well or if they don't feel welcome, safe, valued, seen, and heard."

Dodge's goal for the event is in part for TAS to become a "less reactive school," focusing more on proactive educational leadership. As educational leaders, "we cannot be afraid of saying, being, or doing something because sometimes saying nothing or doing nothing is as bad as saying something wrong," said Dodge. "It is okay to show vulnerability and to model it, along with taking accountability." This event, to her, is a step in the right direction for the school to avoid doing nothing and to demonstrate what authentic vulnerability and community reflection can look like.

Dodge says that she hopes that the audience (comprised of parents, employees, board members, and alumni) agrees that JEDI work - including events like this TASCC webinar - should have a "universal message in an attempt to bring this community closer together."

She reminded us that JEDI work does not happen overnight, nor does it happen within one school year (or even within one 5-year strategic plan cycle). "But at the very least, I hope more nice, thoughtful, and open-minded TAS students are able to present that way to each other, to colleges, and to the world when they leave TAS,” said Dodge.

Other speakers included Lower School Associate Principal Ms. Becky Klar, Lower School counselor Ms. Jennifer Fisher, Middle School counselor Dr. Lori Richardson Garcia and Upper School Director of Academic and Personal Counseling Mr. Ryan Haynes. Each is involved in the school's JEDI work and is an integral part of the school's social-emotional learning program (including student support services and other forms of counseling).

Important topics discussed include:

  • The Anti-Bias and Social Justice Framework (discussed above)

  • Stereotypes in education

  • Empathy, compassion, and resilience

  • Trauma in education, especially during a pandemic

  • Things parents and families can do to model resilience

  • Tips for talking about the pandemic

  • Updates on JEDI and wellness work in the MS and US

  • Resources on these and related subjects

Last year, TASCC hosted two events in the spring, an in-person parent community coffee in March held at the local Neighbors Cafe, and a more extensive digital event called "A Conversation about Asian Americans with S. Leo Chiang and Nick Wu ('13)," a recording of which is available to all TAS community members in the TAS Portals.

The TASCC leadership team can be reached at chair@tascc.tas.tw. The group maintains both a Facebook page and an active LINE group. For more information, be sure to check out the group's page within the TAS Parent Portal here: www.tas.edu.tw/parent-portal/tas-cultural-connection 

A video of this recording is now available to all TAS community members in the TAS portals.

 

 

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