There was a recent conference I attended on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Seattle Pacific University. I really liked it and it was my favorite DEI professional development that I’ve attended in a long time. I saw presentations about translanguaging, multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), and socio-emotional learning (SEL).
What I liked about SPU’s conference was that it was undergirded by a sense of care, quality and intentionality that I don’t always see in DEI work. A lot of the time DEI work treats the people who need to be most supported as objects of equity rather than subjects who can interact with and transform their own environments.
The translanguaging PD was fabulous. It zoomed in on translanguaging from a decolonial perspective and talked about code-switching as a form of oppression, whereby people with “non-traditional” language use have to change what they’re saying and how they’re saying it when they interact with hierarchies or systems of power. For example, a person with diverse language repertoires might say “aks” instead of “ask” at home, but have to say “ask” at work. I had always thought of code-switching as a natural linguistic phenomenon and hadn’t thought about it in terms of power, but it made sense.
The MTSS professional development was great because it addressed how often people implementing MTSS silo their approaches to what should be an integrated system of support. It also spoke about how we shouldn’t talk about students relative to what tiers of support they need, which can be dehumanizing.
The SEL PD was my favorite, because it dealt with how teachers incorporating SEL might now have diverse ways of implementing it, which can lead to only a small fraction of the students engaging when SEL lessons about feelings and reflection come up. Both of the presenters were from Hong Kong initially, though they are American now. And they spoke about how their experiences of feelings are different than those of other cultures found in the US, and how this isn’t acknowledged by a lot of teachers using SEL. Our approach is too uniform.
These three presentations were great food for thought and I really enjoyed the conference.