A Note From Noah

Our Parents Association has hosted an annual series of PA meetings focused on social justice, stretching back four years. Most recently, last month’s meeting focused on “Checking your implicit bias at the door.” The presenters walked us through how micro-aggressions and implicit bias operate, and how we can critically self-reflect as we pursue justice in our daily lives. Last year’s April PA meeting looked at building an anti-racist community by “resisting the shush factor.” In prior years, the content of the meetings has included building a socially-justice-oriented children’s library and developing an activist stance as a family.

These PA meetings have also inspired an ongoing conversation among our teaching staff, who have explored the topics of anti-racism, diversity, and social justice in several different formats in recent years. This year, the conversation has led our teaching staff towards revitalizing our school library to reflect our efforts towards an anti-racist school environment. Alex Reynolds (Classroom 1), Lizzy Tepper (Classroom 4), and Alyssa Blackman (Classroom 8) have led a larger group of teachers through a process to diversify our school library.

Alex, Lizzy, and Alyssa, along with several other teachers volunteering their time, began last month to inventory our library to see what types of families, cultures, and abilities are represented on our shelves. As anticipated, we found that our library overwhelming depicts humanity as white, neurotypical, cisgender, and heterosexual. So, the group has begun to cull our shelves of books which share only this normative vision of society; this will allow us to step into Phase II of this project, which will be to re-populate our library with books which represent a broader, inclusive understanding of society.

Alex, Lizzy, and Alyssa share this about their project:

Several members of our nursery school staff have been working to overhaul our school library. This project is part of a larger school initiative in which our staff has come together to critically reflect on diversity and anti-bias education. Within these conversations, our staff noted that one step we could take to increase diversity and representation was through the books in our library.

Throughout this process, our staff members have worked to go through each and every book in the library, documenting books that particularly highlight themes of diversity or include a wide representation of people. Many books have been removed from our shelves in order to be donated. These include books in which we have several copies, books that target an older age-range, and books that have outdated themes. Our goal was to make room for books that will increase representation of different peoples, themes, and experiences, and we have been successful in this goal. We have pulled our resources and have many suggested titles with which we are hoping to repopulate the shelves. We are very much looking forward to this next step in the process!

I am so proud to work in a community in which teachers and parents are together grappling with how to address our social responsibility at a local level. At its best, a school community must live its values daily. I know that the current library project will bring us closer to the ideals we aspire towards.

Lastly, please make sure to donate any remaining change to our Penny Harvest! This of course is also part of our ongoing social efforts. The proceeds of this year’s Harvest will be donated to PS 96 to help purchase needed school supplies throughout the year; our Parents Association also sent dozens of backpacks and other school supplies via our drive this fall. The Harvest will culminate at Field Day, Friday, May 7 – so donate any change before then!

Shabbat shalom,

Please see today’s Note from Ilana Ruskay-Kidd, former nursery director here, on Yom HaShoah for a poignant perspective on our proximity to ongoing hate and anti-Semitism.