Friday, March 18, 2016

Why a Middle School Diversity Liaison?

Why a Middle School Diversity Liaison?

Middle school students in general want to belong and they try to conform to the norm so that they don’t stand out in a way that marginalizes them socially. They begin to question family values and God’s love. They turn to their peers for determining what is in and what is out in music, language or dress. Some days, a given middle school student is confident and bold and other days unsure and fearful. In fact, in one hour, a middle school student can flip flop multiple times between self-assurance and none at all. Every visible and invisible aspect of a human being during these years is changing – body, brain, and chemistry.

We know that middle school students are powerhouses of creative energy and capable of being more than followers. We know they are capable of standing alone and of standing up for the underdog. We also know how social pressure can sap creativity and make the heroism of standing alone or for the underdog difficult. That’s why we continually review ways to help students navigate one of the most dramatic and significant developmental periods of their lives so that they come out on the other side with a base of resilience, empathy and informed convictions.

When Cheri Buxman was assigned exclusively to the Middle School, she offered to add to her roles as an art and religion teacher the task of additional research and support of activities that more intentionally engage students in leadership development, empathy and how to handle conflicting viewpoints. These are the sorts of activities that underlie the MS religion curriculum, community action team experiences, overnight trips, and academic delivery. We can always learn more and do more to develop emotionally and socially smarter kids.

The title of diversity liaison was applied to the role because the goal is to provide students with additional tools and experiences to learn about and from emotional, social, religious, economic, racial and cultural differences, and to discover that for every difference there is a similarity. This goal strengthens students’ sense of personal identity and place in the world.

That middle school students are looking for ways to belong and not yet sure who they are, is a given. They can be extremely kind to and tolerant of one another and selves at times, and at other times, they can be cruel, thoughtless or unforgiving. We see this in the lunchroom or on the playground. We hear it in anecdotes from students and parents. So, we are adding one more resource to further facilitate the good work of building emotional intelligence.

The diversity program goals support student capacity to:

·      Live the Loretto school values – Faith, Community, Respect and Justice
·      Act for the underdog, and even heroically, through the power of empathy  
·      Establish valued identity through keener self and other awareness
·      Build and shape experiences in CAT, service outings and on trips
·      Live and lead more intentionally

These goals are not new to SMA’s Middle School program. Having a diversity liaison who can broaden and deepen our ability to nurture emotional intelligence is a bonus for which we are grateful.