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You Belong

Hello,


When I shop for luggage, I look for bags that will fit under the seat in front of me. Why? Because I am short. Without bending or ducking, I can stand straight up on a plane by the window and not hit my head. I am sure if I were allowed to try, I would be able to fit into the overhead compartment with the door shut. That’s how small I am. So, if I wanted to put luggage in the overhead compartment, I need to, in the words of Blanche DuBois, “Rely on the kindness of strangers” to help me get my bag in and out. Since I don’t want to do that, I

stow my carry-on under the seat. This is an example of diversity. I am short. The average adult is taller than I am.


My daughter plays softball and my sons play soccer. This was something each of them gravitated to on their own. For softball, my daughter needs a bat and gloves. My sons do not need either of these things for soccer; they need a soccer ball and shin guards. Buying my daughter what my sons need (or vice versa) would be equal, but it would not be equitable. This is an example of equity. Each sport requires something different and it is fair to get what is needed for that sport even though what is needed is not the same.


My husband and kids love shellfish. Me, not so much. When they want to go to a seafood restaurant, I like to look at the menu first to see if they have non-shellfish options like fish, chicken, steak, or pasta—all of which I enjoy. Most of the time, there is something I will eat. If not, we look for another restaurant all of us will enjoy. This is an example of inclusion. We all want to be sure the others enjoy the food even though we may not all like the same things.


My daughter’s softball team has three new players on the team; the other nine players are returning and have been together for at least two seasons. In order to make the new players and their families feel included, the team had a family get-together where people could spend time getting to know each other. Even basics like what people’s names are make a difference. At the end of the night, one of the new families said, “Thanks for doing this. It was so nice to get to know everyone. I feel like I know people better now and I’m a part of the group.” This is an example of belonging. Belonging is the positive impact of including others.


Here is another example of belonging. I do not drink. Like most people, my husband drinks (diversity). We used to go out with his brother and their friends. I was able to drink water or pop, and everyone else was able to order the alcoholic drink of their choice (equity). My husband enjoys my company and always invited me to go with him when he went out (inclusion). Unfortunately, besides me, everyone knew each other. They all had history and inside jokes. Though my husband would sometimes check in on me, I would often be by myself in a bar full of people who were strangers to me but not to each other. Though I am professionally an extrovert, I am socially an introvert. As a result, I felt invisible. My being there was not noticed by anyone. I felt like I didn’t fit in (belonging), and as a result, this was a negative experience for me.


Though the terms, “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging” (DEIB) are often politically charged, the reality is they are values most of us employ in our lives. Unfortunately, if we’re not careful, we can take these important values and inadvertently minimize or contort them into something they are not. For example, thinking about DEIB as though all that we’re talking about is race, and even more granular—blacks versus whites. Or, we might think about it as just gender, for example. In truth, DEIB are much bigger than issues of race or gender and impact all of us.


All of the examples from my life I’ve shared here are unrelated to the traditional ideas of DEIB. This doesn’t mean I want to take away the race, gender, culture, etc. spotlight for DEIB. On the contrary. I think race, gender, culture, etc. are important areas in need of our attention. However, I want to show that these concepts are relatable no matter who you are so you can find ways to consider those who you may not relate as easily. In other words, I want you to feel like you belong in this important conversation so you find a way to take important actions to help others belong too!


~Heather


P.S. In the district where I work, last week there were presentations from each building at the Board of Education Meeting to share information about the Restorative Practices (RP) work and plans for this school year. Among other things. three high school students spoke about how RP has impacted them. Two of the students spoke about how not only did it positively impact their school experiences last year in a student-to-student and student-to-teacher way but also that they felt like RP had a positive impact on teacher-to-teacher interactions too. The third student spoke about how using RP in the Alternative Learning Environment made him realize that he didn't need to be disrespectful even if he felt disrespected. These were powerful testimonials!


The middle school portion of the presentation talked about the amazing work taking place this year with the daily advisorary time and the Early Release Days. We got to see a few examples of the daily lesson slides. One of the slides had the video I'm sharing with you as this week's Catch of the Week. Though the students in the video are not students from where I work, I can't help but wonder what the students I work with would say they are and are not. What would you say you are and are not? Email me your response and I'll let you know what I would say.



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