- Equity & Inclusion
- Lincoln Love
This is a guest blog post by Candice De Los Reyes P’31,’34, Executive Assistant to the Head of School and Coordinator of Racial Equity Initiatives for Faculty & Staff.
At our first meeting in 2019, we paused to take a look at each other and to take a collective breath. It was the first time that all of Lincoln’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) faculty and staff members had been in the same room together in recent memory and the depth of that moment was palpable.
Though we do not have one monolithic experience as people of color, what we know is that the average tenure of teachers of color at independent schools is just two years, and this means we have to be intentional about retention. We also know that the ratios of students of color to teachers of color in schools are extraordinarily disproportionate: in both public and independent schools, only 2 out of every 10 teachers are people of color. In contrast, it is predicted that by 2024, students of color will make up 54% of the student population in the U.S. In independent schools alone, students of color make up about 32% of the population.
We know the well-researched benefits for students of color when they encounter teachers who look like them. Teachers of color demonstrate for students of color how to navigate the complexities of race and power within institutions without losing who you are. What we hear less of is just how critical of a role that BIPOC faculty and staff play for all students, regardless of race. BIPOC faculty and staff offer a different reality and can draw on their own experiences when teaching and talking with students about issues of identity, equity, and justice. BIPOC faculty and staff enable all students to become proximate to people of color who are knowledgeable and experts in their field and who defy stereotypes that are insidious in our country. Given the current racial climate, we need BIPOC faculty and staff in our schools now more than ever, for all of our students.
At Lincoln, our BIPOC faculty and staff meet monthly in an affinity space and have been since the summer of 2019. In line with Lincoln’s mission, the BIPOC faculty and staff collective aims to create a supportive community built on shared experience, radical self-care, and collaboration with members of Lincoln’s administration to advance our equity and inclusion goals and priorities. Another one of our goals is to broaden and enrich the day-to-day conversations that happen with our colleagues and students.
We retreat annually each year before the start of school to build community and connection.
We mentor middle and upper school students in a recently launched BIPOC Mentoring Program.
We laugh and find moments of joy together.
Many would argue that affinity groups can be self-segregating. To the contrary, affinity groups for BIPOC faculty and staff provide a space for people to be who they are and say what they know. This is an experience that white faculty and staff working in schools have every day—in the lunchroom, at department meetings, in the breakroom, and many, many other places and spaces where they are the majority. In other words, the opportunity to be with those whose experiences are most similar to yours’ happens regularly for our white colleagues without an organized meeting. To be able to bring your whole self to work, the place where most of us spend the majority of our waking hours, is an experience that should not be taken for granted. I recently attended an AISNE collaborative session for Heads of School and Diversity Practitioners facilitated by John Gentile and Rachael Flores and something said really resonated with me: I’m paraphrasing here, but they shared that being able to voice what you are feeling without having to provide additional context, even if not always positive, there is still joy in being able to name that with exactness.
At Lincoln, I am grateful for the support of administration to be able to both spend time thinking about this, and for the partnership, as we consider how to best support BIPOC faculty and staff in our community and to improve our recruitment and retention of a more diverse faculty and staff. Both independent and public schools face significant challenges when it comes to making lasting change to the racial diversity of their faculty and retaining those teachers past the average two-year tenure. Though diversifying the teacher workforce is a national conversation and not unique to Lincoln, it is a priority for us, both now and as we look to the future.