While the Brooklyn Friends School students continued to enjoy Fall Break on Monday, November 29th, the BFS Colleagues immersed themselves in the Fall All-Colleague Professional Day dedicated fully to Diversity, Equity, and Belonging. It was, to say the very least, a day of enrichment, connection, and community. The All-Colleague Professional Day was masterfully designed and executed by BFS Director of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging, Dr. AnaMaria Correa.
“It is such a privilege and an important organizational message from the school that time and resources of this magnitude would be centered on a whole day of learning for all members of our community. It was powerful to know that from our Culinary and Facilities Teams to our Finance, HR and Security, IT, and Health leadersO, all colleagues were included and learning together.” Dr. Correa said. “It is extraordinary in the field to have this because usually, DEI directors are vying for an hour or two peppered throughout the year. This way of centering DEB purpose helped me serve this community, wholly, not compromised and in the full scope of an all encompassing vision of purpose and experience. I felt the trust and that lifted me. I also felt the responsibility of the day. I wanted to extend the values I have felt in this community which are central to my practice: joy, welcome, respect, hospitality, authenticity and community. I am grateful to all that obstacles were removed to ensure full participation and that most importantly this community said “yes” and didn’t hesitate in their embrace of the day’s experiences. It will matter that anything that was learned yesterday is already being put to use today.”
As colleagues entered the Pearl Street lobby, they were welcomed warmly by the musical talents of three magnificent performers—All School Performing Arts Department Chair, Stephen Buck, and Music Teachers, Tyler Bauer and Stephanie Mayer. “This was such a beautiful way to start the day. I wish I could have a hologram of this trio performing in the lobby every morning,” Head of School, Crissy Cáceres said in her opening remarks. She then went on to frame the day—”Today is going to cause you to stretch,” she told the colleagues gathered in the Pearl Street Meeting House. “Some stretches feel good and some stretches require you to use new muscles or muscles you haven’t used in a while. That is what today will be.”
Throughout the day, Dr. Correa moderated Zoom and in-person sessions with some of the biggest names in the field. Before the presentations started, however, all of the colleagues were grounded in a centering activity by BFS Lower School Dance Teacher, Winston E. Benons Jr.
Dr. Correa’s work in crafting the day has been thoughtfully informed by how deeply she has come to understand our community and the needs at this time. The day was not about a series of workshops, but rather, it was about a whole day of experiences which transformed our thinking and provided our spirits with light and inspiration. We began the day learning from Georgetown Day School’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Marlo Thomas with a sessionentitled “Our Identities, Ourselves: Exploring Affinity Work at BFS.” This was followed by Carla Peña, Director of Professional Development Initiatives at Gender Spectrum, who guided us through the “Dimensions of Gender: From Perspective to Practice.” BFS Colleagues then experienced a moving and rousing, in-person Keynote address by Jason Craige Harris, who presented, the Place of Restorative Power & Community at BFS: “So What’s the Story? Narrative Change that Leads to Restoration.” Jason spoke about the power of stories, those that we tell ourselves and others that create division centering the warning that we are not the single story we hear, andwe are not a reflection of our worst moment. He inspired us to consider the restorative power of changing these narratives. We closed the day with our very own All School Well-Being Coordinator, Dr. Steven Karaiskos, who spoke about the power of reflective practice in our work and life for well-being at BFS. Within this full day of growth, we also shared in a lunch experience that involved voluntary affinity groups meant for the continued building of relationships.
It was truly a day to remember. Head of Lower School, Jason Novak, spotlighted the overall sentiment of the day’s experience when reflecting to Dr. Correa: “It was an absolutely incredible day. Thank you so much for creating such a special and important return to BFS after our Fall Break.” An important return to our collective work indeed.