May 16, 2019

Dear Harbor Families,

Age 2 to grade 2. The early childhood developmental stage is a critical time, a time when children are developing identity and their place within the community around them. Every day, children are taking in clues from their environment about difference, belonging, and how to respond to situations. It is our collective responsibility, as their parents and teachers, to ensure that our homes, classrooms, and other community spaces are safe places where every child feels included and can learn about the differences that enrich us.

At Harbor, we are clear that celebrating diversity and creating an inclusive environment is a priority. Just have a(nother) look at our mission statement:

The Harbor School embraces the uniqueness of each child, and we teach our students to celebrate it in themselves and each other.

For the past several weeks, our faculty has been taking a deep dive into topics of diversity and inclusion. Because every one of us is a human being with our own unique set of experiences that we bring with us into the classroom, we have spent valuable time talking about our own stories, personal experiences, and perspectives- and taking the time to really listen to each other using a set of conversation norms.

During our half day professional day in April, and each Wednesday morning since then, Harbor faculty has spent time in conversations about our own identifiers and experiences with bias. We have discussed a checklist for culturally competent early childhood classrooms. Yesterday morning, in small groups, we talked about how we could respond to "teachable moments" in our classrooms involving differences. And next week, we’ll be taking a close look at the text resources in our library and classrooms to ensure that the stories and images that support our students’ learning are sending inclusive messages about a range of human experiences.

Every moment that we have your children in our care is a “teachable" one.  Children are taking in everything - what is visible on our walls and in our books (and what is not), what we say (or don’t say), what we teach (or don’t teach), how we respond in a given situation, even our body language. It is our responsibility as educators to continually seek to understand our own (conscious or unconscious) belief systems and to be cognizant of how this influences our students’ learning in our classrooms.

As you well know if you have been reading my letters this year, diversity and inclusion is one of three ongoing professional goals for all of us at Harbor that will continue into next year. (The other two are differentiation/individualization of instruction and maker-centered learning.) Our work this spring will continue into next year, and the year after that, and the year after that - because this work never ends, and shouldn’t.

Next year, we will provide opportunities for parents to join in the conversation in more formal ways. In the meantime, please consider this a personal invitation for a one on one discussion about your own experiences at Harbor or your thoughts about this important work. I really believe that the more we talk, and listen, to each other, the richer our children’s education will be.

Warm regards,

Leah Musico

Head of School

The Harbor School

Harbor School