National diversity expert and thought leader Robert Greene of Jones Consulting spent time with parents, students and administrators during a day-long series of workshops intended to foster understanding around cultural competency, defined as the perspectives and skills needed to effectively navigate interactions across individual, group and institutional differences. Mr. Greene illustrated how valuing differences, in thought, culture and perspective, drives innovation and inclusivity within a school community and empowers students to make successful transitions in life beyond St. Margaret’s.
The day began with a keynote presentation at the Parent Teacher Fellowship General Membership Meeting where Mr. Greene introduced the concept of cultural competency to parents and guided discussion around the importance of inclusive communication skills. “Having already conducted workshops with students, faculty and staff this year, Mr. Greene’s session with the PTF spoke to the invaluable partnership we have with our parents,” said Upper School Assistant Principal Ryan Dahlem, who leads the school’s strategic diversity and inclusivity efforts. “The session was especially meaningful considering the generous support provided through the funding of a PTF grant to move our school forward in developing cultural competency skills within our students and ourselves.”
Mr. Greene later conducted a session for grade 8 students about making a successful transition to high school. He asked the rising freshmen to share their thoughts on how older students could make them feel included in the Upper School next year, then encouraged the students to model those same qualities as leaders of the Middle School for the remainder of this year. Mr. Greene later shared the feedback from the grade 8 students in a session with Upper School leaders and challenged them to live out these ideals in creating an inclusive Upper School community. Citing the school’s Episcopal identity and referencing the Biblical lesson of “being your brother’s keeper,” Mr. Greene challenged Upper School leaders to look out for all their peers as a vital demonstration of inclusive leadership.
Mr. Greene carried the theme of leadership forward in a session with St. Margaret’s administrative leadership team, noting that “cultural competency creates effective management, and effective management is culturally competent.” The team discussed aspects of strength and growth in implementing cultural competency skills in their respective areas of responsibility throughout the school.
The day concluded with a special “Senior Seminar” for grade 12 students highlighting the importance of cultural competency skills in making a successful transition to college. Mr. Greene invited seniors to share their perceptions of the climate on college campuses across the nation with respect to topics of diversity and inclusivity. He encouraged students to reflect on experiences they’ve had outside their comfort zones in preparation for the transition to unfamiliar college environments, and to embrace the differences they will encounter as positive opportunities for learning and growth.
Grade 12 student Francelia Lievanos, a member of the Tartan Inclusivity and Diversity Education (TIDE) leadership group, reflected on the impact of the day. “Mr. Greene’s sessions for both the leadership groups and for the seniors were very insightful. In the leadership session, the Biblical passage of “being your brother’s keeper” really stuck out to us and made us realize that as leadership groups we have to support one another. We are all seen as independent groups, but Mr. Greene helped us realize that even though we might not do the same work, we all have the same goal of making St. Margaret’s a better community. In the senior seminar, our class really took away the idea of stepping out of our comfort zones. It was nice hearing from my peers how much each of us has grown through our time at St. Margaret’s. It gave us the boost to really feel like we will be able to step onto a college campus and step out of our comfort zones.”