Science teacher Erica Pernell reflects on her experience at the People of Color Conference (PoCC) hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools in December.
“There are over 600 of us in this room today!” says a PoCC facilitator.
I was in Houston in a huge hotel ballroom. The facilitator of our affinity group at PoCC could not even see the back of the room because of the sea of tables filled with smiling brown faces. The summative energy of the critical mass of educators of African descent who work at independent schools was tangible. We talked about why we choose to work at independent schools, what we feel we bring to our institutions and what our institutions mean to us. We talked about our struggles learning how to address cultural micro-aggressions as we move through this world. Our presence is important, we were told. Our perspectives can only enhance the quality of the education all our students receive, someone pointed out.
I am new to Nobles and new to independent schools and I was fortunate enough to be given my first opportunity to attend this three-day event, along with 15 other Nobles employees. Concurrently, six Nobles students attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, also held in Houston. Our sheer group size of 22 told me how fortunate I am to be at an institution that recognizes, values and supports diversity.
The Nobles community is diverse, meaning that the people here inhabit different communities in our lives outside the school. Our experiences in these communities influence our perspectives. In turn, we bring our individual perspectives to the Nobles community. When we share these diverse perspectives within the hallowed walls of the school, we improve the Nobles experience for everyone. By providing a diverse environment for students and staff, where perspectives represent a range of experiences, our ability to provide academic and social opportunities for growth can only increase.
PoCC helps people build community outside and within their institutions by providing a place to share best practices, varied experiences and perspectives. I returned from Houston with new friendships with my colleagues and new connections with students dedicated to diversity at Nobles. I have the contact information for other practitioners across the nation who weave real-world issues into science teaching. There are over 700 of us “in the room” at Nobles. With this experience, I return recognizing our infinite power in connection and the opportunities that come through diversity in our community.