Under normal circumstances, congratulating you on the end of the school year would include sharing in feelings of joy, celebration, and, in many cases, some well-earned relief. In any other year, we’d be wishing you the best for a summer full of relaxing, reading, seeing family and friends, and maybe taking some trips away from home. Obviously, these are not those times. While some of the emotions we are feeling this June may be similar to previous years, there are likely others that feel new: uncertainty, anxiety, and a sadness at not being able to wish our friends, colleagues, and communities well with an end of year hug. Whether you are a teacher, parent, or anyone who cares about schools in this unique moment, we want to say thank you for the caring, thoughtful, and incredibly adaptive work you have done this year. It has taken all of us to try to make the world a more equitable place in the midst of the greatest crisis of inequity in our lifetime.
Sadly, as this very different school year comes to a close, we are also seeing headlines that have become all too familiar in our society: the racial targeting of an African-American birder in Central Park, the tragic death of yet another unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, and all of the unrest and violence that has followed these events in so many communities in their wake. As always, Pollyanna denounces all forms of racism and hatred in our country. Even as we seem to make progress in the work of racial and social justice, we continue to see reasons why our work remains more urgent than ever, especially with the students who will construct and maintain the world we wish to create.
As we enter summer, we also hope to offer some content that is constructive, forward thinking, and ultimately positive in its outlook. Last month, we surveyed over 100 DEI Directors and Practitioners in the Pollyanna Network to ask for one piece of advice they would give to their Head of School during the COVID-19 Crisis. The responses were packed with wisdom and practical ideas. We hope you will read our first ever - Pollyanna Position Paper - in which, using the survey responses, we argue for what DEI work might look like as we move forward in our school communities through the COVID-19 crisis.
Finally, like many of you, we have had to quickly learn how to transform in-person experiences into virtual experiences. We were very excited to partner with The Dalton School for our first-ever Zoom Conference! Some of the folks who participated shared their voices in this video about their experience and the benefits of a virtual conference. We know the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion is more important than ever. With some uncertainty looming over the fall, let’s discuss what an online conference would look like for your school so the work continues.
Finally, fees from school conferences is our largest source of revenue and with recent school closures, we have lost a significant amount of that revenue for this year. We know our work is more important than ever and as such, I hope you'll consider a gift to support our work. We are seeking to raise $50,000 by August to ensure our work continues. Every gift has a tremendous impact.
Pollyanna Discussion Forums: When schools closed down because of the pandemic, the Pollyanna team met to discuss where we could be helpful and supportive to our school communities of faculty and parents. We also knew there were many online resources immediately available, so we waited a bit to see where there might be an opportunity. On May 4, we launched two six-week long discussion forums: Equity Work in the New Normal for educators, and Parenting During a Pandemic for parents. During the past few weeks, we’ve built a supportive community within each discussion group. We offer a weekly space to meet around a topic with guiding questions, where people can support each other. Click on the links below in “What’s Next” to see the topics and register. Please join us for the last few discussions in this series.
RIISE, Riverdale & Horace Mann: We were thrilled to join the Hilltop school community and RIISE on May 5, as Monique Vogelsang presented to parents and guardians from Riverdale and Horace Mann. For this workshop, Monique –– the lead creator of the Pollyanna K-8 Racial Literacy Curriculum and Parent/Guardian Companion Guide –– spoke about the unfortunate, disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color and how structural racism created this outcome. Reviewing an array of policies, book and media resources, and discussion topics, Monique shared tangible ways to further develop their general racial literacy skills and anti-racist perspectives. By the end of the workshop, parents and guardians learned fundamental information and strategies to engage their children in conversations about race, why it matters, and how to bring these essential conversations home.
JUNE 1 - JUNE 15: Two Pollyanna Discussion Groups: We are halfway through our 6-week discussion forums. Please join the Pollyanna Team as we build a new community. We hope to create a space for educators, families, and friends to share narratives, learn new strategies, and, perhaps most importantly, appreciate and celebrate each other’s work across school communities during this unique time. The School Equity forums will focus specifically on questions relevant to teachers and administrators related to the work of diversity, equity and inclusion and how this work might be affected as we move forward. Likewise, the Parenting forums will allow families to connect, share…and possibly decompress with families facing similar joys and challenges during this time. Each 60-minute conversation will be centered on a specific topic with guiding questions, and led by Pollyanna team members. Through an online format, we hope to recreate some of the connection and support many of us are missing while apart from our schools.
JUNE 4: NYSAIS & Pollyanna: Why Has the Pandemic Disproportionately Impacted People of Color? An Informative Review of Systemic Racism, Its Impact, & Ways We May Create More Equity: The current pandemic has amplified the systemic nature of racism, as people of color and low income communities have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. In order to foster an anti-racist growth mindset, it is vital that we better understand how systemic racism created segregated, unequal living standards and limited access to social, economic, legal, and residential opportunities for people along lines of race. Monique Vogelsang, lead creator of Pollyanna’s Racial Literacy Curriculum, will facilitate this workshop. To better understand why the pandemic is impacting people of color at disproportionate rates, we will trace the emergence of race and systemic racism in the United States, such as the limits placed on personhood, citizenship, immigration, housing, and other civil rights. We will also review key racial literacy ideas and frameworks, and highlight further resources and discussion topics, so the conversation can be extended to the virtual classroom and our homes.
By the end of the workshop, we will better understand the essential information and strategies to engage adults and children in conversations about race and racism, and how we can approach such conversations with a growth mindset –– striving to maintain and embrace a sense of unity and dignity while doing so. Click here to register and join us on June 4, 3-4:15PM.
JUNE 6: 3-hour K-8 Racial Literacy Curriculum Professional Development: Examples of inequality, race, racism and privilege are all around us now. How are you bringing these conversations to your students? Join us for an Open Professional Development Workshop on Zoom for our K-8 Racial Literacy Curriculum from 1:00-4:00PM EST. During this workshop, Monique Vogelsang will introduce the curriculum, which was released to schools free of charge in 2019. Together, we'll review curricular highlights of each grade, so educators can better understand how to address race in the classroom. After taking this workshop, participants will feel more confident and inspired to incorporate race dialogue and content into their existing curriculum.Click here to register for the June 6 PD.
What We Offer
Cross-Constituent Assessment This is designed for a school that wants to investigate cultural and environmental perspectives on DEI topics, a Cross-Constituent Assessment is designed and implemented and consists of online surveys, focus groups and a comprehensive summary of both qualitative and quantitative data to provide infrastructure for on-going initiatives.
Independent School Conference
This original conference emphasizes our motto “Every Voice Matters” by including all constituent groups at schools: administrators, alumni, diversity, equity and inclusion practitioners, faculty, parents, students and trustees. This Conference model is available to schools around the US and in Canada. The school that hosts this conference in a specific geographic region welcomes peer schools in that region to discuss challenges and effective practices around a specific diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topic, and generate Action Plans to create movement at each of the attending schools.
Intra-Conference Pollyanna designed the Intra-Conference as an institutional capacity-building opportunity for schools that want to deepen their knowledge, enhance practices and improve skills in the areas of DEI. This is for schools that would like to build community, develop a strategic plan, or rewrite mission and vision statements. This Conference brings a school together and establishes and strengthens community connections. It informs the community and provides a platform for sharing personal experiences, expressing opinions and perspectives, and generating solutions for growth. Constituent groups included in this model are: alumni, alumni parents, employees, students and parents.
K-8 Racial Literacy Curriculum
Engaging and accessible, theCurriculum is designed to help students gain knowledge about race as it has been constructed in the US, and aims to help students acquire an awareness of their own racial socialization and skills for engaging in productive conversations about race and racism. If you use any of the lessons and post them to social media, tag Pollyanna!
Parent/Guardian Companion Guide
The Guideprovides an in-depth overview of each unit featured in the K-8 Racial Literacy Curriculum, recommends questions and conversation suggestions for parents and guardians to facilitate dialogue at home that centers on race, culture, and identity, and suggests reading and viewing material to enhance racial literacy.
Professional Development Workshops and Parent Discussion Groups
We offer Racial Literacy Professional Development for faculty and also Racial Literacy Discussion Groups for parents at your school. For more information about PD and Discussion Groups or to schedule workshops and discussions, please email Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pollyanna advances systemic change by developing stronger communities.
Pollyanna works with academic and other institutions to achieve their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Through its unique conference models, discussion platforms, and racial literacy curricula, Pollyanna increases cultural competence.
Pollyanna, Inc. is a NY not-for-profit corporation 501(c)(3).