We Stand Together – Jennifer Oaten
While living in the UK for a year, I was privileged to have the opportunity to complete a Masters of Education at Leeds University with other educators from around the world. My fellow students were from Argentina, Singapore, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the UK, Brazil, China, and India. I was the only one from Australia. The diversity of these educators’ cultural backgrounds, experiences of education in their own country, and their perspectives of leadership added considerable richness to our learnings. Each was a leader of education in their own country and had remarkable stories to share. We were an extremely diverse yet cohesive group, where all felt valued and heard. This remains, as one of my most valued learning experiences.
Humans show great diversity. Diversity can be defined as the entire spectrum of the differences that exist among humans across the world that includes cultural background, colour, religious affiliation, age, gender, sexual orientation, and ability.
If we endeavour to be inclusive of diverse characteristics of people in our community, we need to provide an environment that makes everyone feel respected, accepted and encouraged to participate freely and to be their authentic selves. An inclusive environment is a place where the voices of each individual are heard, understood and valued.
As a world, a school, and as individuals, we all have a part to play in inclusivity and acceptance. I believe inclusion is not an event but a journey.
The recent death of an African-American man, George Floyd has created a movement around the world, encouraging people to stand together for the rights of people of colour.
So how can we as a community stand together to promote diversity and greater inclusivity?
- Acknowledge differences, understand that people are different from one another and that all should feel equal and valued. We should discourage stereotypes and promote authenticity.
- Value diverse talents and ensure all members of our community understand their strengths. We should also endeavour to limit our focus on conformity and encourage individuality.
- Learn to Listen. We must learn to be a listening community who value the voice of all in our community and listen to understand.
- Develop knowledge about other countries, global events and international politics. Taking time to be informed about others’ backgrounds helps our understanding of each other and builds social cohesion.
- Normalise changing your opinion when you learn new information. There is much readily accessible information, so we need to be open to learning from others.
- Build cultural understanding. As part of a multicultural, global society, we must develop sensitivity and understanding of others’ attitudes, values and customs which may be different to our own.
- Speak out against discrimination when it is visible to us. Stand alongside those who are marginalised, speak up and don’t be a bystander. With your courage and support, they too will feel stronger.
- Celebrate other cultures. We should encourage interactions within our community to acknowledge different cultures, celebrations, festivals and significant events that are important to others.
- Demonstrate acts of kindness and generosity to every member of the community every day.
As a school community of 1300 students, 170 staff and 2000 parents, we can each do our part and be change-makers in our world to ensure that everybody feels valued and respected.
“Man in the Mirror” is a song written by Michael Jackson which encourages us all as individuals to make a change.
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
I encourage our girls to do more than just show their support for one day. I challenge them to take action each and every day to promote diversity and inclusivity. As inclusion is a journey, we need to continue these actions throughout our lives. Let’s #createthechange.