Planting a SEED at Parker

By The Weekly Student-Journalist Lilly Satterfileld ’21
Seated around a conference table every month for three hours with open minds and the excitement to share and learn from their peers, three different groups of Parker community members meet to further develop their understanding for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the community.

According to its website, the National SEED Project is a “program that creates conversational communities to drive personal, organizational, and societal change toward greater equity and diversity.” The website adds, “Nearly 2,600 educators, parents, and community leaders from 42 U.S. states and 14 other countries have been trained as SEED leaders by National SEED. The majority of SEED staff members are people of color.”

SEED, more formally known as “Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity,” is a national program that focuses discussing diversity, identity, and equity issues in schools.

In the 2014-2015 school year, Senior Kindergarten teacher Kirkland LaRue brought SEED to Parker teachers and faculty members. After learning about the program, LaRue spoke to Vice Principal Ruth Jurgensen about the idea of bringing it to Parker in different ways. Among teachers and faculty members, LaRue was one of the first facilitators of the SEED program.

“It started out with a small group of staff and faculty members who were interested in having conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion,” LaRue said. “Now it is in its fourth year and much bigger than that.” Since then, this program has grown within the walls of Parker to now include two faculty groups and one parent group, with a total of around 40 members.

At Parker, unlike most teacher workshop groups, SEED is completely voluntary. When commiting to join, teachers were asked to agree to be fully present at the meetings that occur once a month. Eighth grade english teacher David Fuder has been a member of the SEED faculty group since last school year. He decided to join the group because he felt the topics being talked about were things that would benefit him and his classroom. “When it is voluntary, it is on us,” Fuder said. “We take the initiative to do it because we want to, because we see the value in it and the importance of it for our own growth as educators.”

Last year, Parker teachers and administrators decided to expand the program beyond just staff members and include parents of the Parker community. At the start of this program, teachers were working among parents to facilitate these conversations at each monthly meeting. The program ran similarly to those involving staff members only but drew to a larger audience. This school year, the parent program is being run by two Parker parents for the first time.

Currently, The SEED parent group is run by two Parker parents: Barry Taylor, father of junior Molly Taylor and eighth grader Hudson Taylor, as well as Chi Jang Yin, mother of a fi rst grader at Parker.

Taylor and Yin were both approached in the spring of last year and asked if they would be willing to facilitate these conversations. Taylor happily accepted. “Being a gay man, I have also sort of had personal experiences of issues that come up in SEED about privilege and oppression,” Taylor said.

Taylor works as civil rights attorney. He has gained experience working with a diverse group of people through his work. “I have a lot of professional experience with working on diversity issues related to not only people with disabilities, but people of color, and low income,” Taylor said. Taylor believes that this background allows for him to facilitate conversations in a much easier and free fl owing manner.

Currently, there are around 25 parent members representing children of different grades, races, and genders. As such with other SEED groups at Parker, a hope for Taylor is to see consistency among each meeting, in order to have the best conversations as possible.

A key aspect to all parts of SEED is the free flowing, story based discussion forum that is seen in each meeting. One idea that is used to express agreement and new insights is the idea of “Windows and Mirrors.” When listening to peers’ stories, if something that is said among the group specifically resonates with a unique experience that one has had, they tend to acknowledge this by saying that the story they just heard is a “mirror” that reflects how they feel or what they have experienced. A window is when someone in the group says something that is new to someone and that they had not thought about before.

“I like the fact that SEED gives an opportunity for both “windows and mirrors” and that people can learn about things they didn’t know about through other people’s experiences,” Taylor said. “But also feel supported because other people are going through or have had similar experiences to what you have had.”

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.