Our Invisible Backpacks: Exploring and Navigating Our Differences

It is so important for our education team, parents and teachers, to be on the same page regarding our stance on embracing diversity and commonalities. To this end, we were thrilled to have Howie Schaffer help us with a parent training. Howie is a respected speaker, trainer, and facilitator on cutting-edge topics in diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency, but the children know him as a guitar strumming, singing, and dancing parent alum of our little cooperative school. We expect and accept that young children will miscue as they work to understand and find their places in our great, big world. What is more difficult to see are the "invisible backpacks" that we, as adults, carry around. These backpacks are filled with our not-so-visible characteristics captured in moments in time, happy recollections, unhappy recollections, along with the misunderstandings, and the labels, both positive and negative that make each of us unique on one hand and the same on the other. To help the children explore their differences and commonalities, we must first embrace our own.

Through a series of three exercises, presented here in this slideshow, we gained insight and connections to each other, our pasts and our presents. We began in pairs in the first exercise, radiating out to groups of 6 and 7 for the second, and then returning to our large group for the group presentations of each group's diversity map. The maps the groups presented were a wonder -- filled with meaning, heartfelt sharing (and support), and creativity. One group danced, one presented poetry, while others presented drawings, a game, and finally a poignant "wrap-up" of one inspired by one of its member's degree in mortuary science. Full circle. If our goal is to open conversation, this evening certainly built a common language of understanding and caring.