Sunday, December 12th, 2010
I’ve got the POCC Blues. I already miss the early morning breakfast with students, the sea of familiar faces from past conferences, and the moments of clarity and waves of knowledge pouring from a workshop facilitator.
I finished my conference survey (please do so as well), shared some of the materials I gathered with LREI faculty, set a date for the colleagues who attended POCC with me to continue our connection, and began a conversation with the 5 HS students who attended SDLC about the impact they wish to leave on their peers and school community. This last blog is dedicated to them, Surayya, Niles, Danica, Steven and Leon.
While the adults were having their experience at the Convention Center, the students, over 1300 High School students from Independent Schools across the country, met in affinity and home groups for the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. Several years ago Call-to-Action, the group that helps structure POCC/SDLC, decided to unite the adults and students. On the final day, we meet early for a profound experience, our last affinity group session by gender and with the students. (On a side note, bravo/a to NAIS and POCC/SDLC chairs for embracing the gender spectrum during the affinity meetings.)
This final session is often an emotional experience as many of us hear students of color announce their surprise and relief to enter a room filled with people just like them. While it is always daunting to hear how the student’s struggles mirror what the adults experience, I am left hopeful when I hear of the leadership roles the students have at their schools. One of our own HS students this year expressed hesitation as we walked to the convention center saying to me, “I’m so used to being the only one it has been weird to be with so many people like me.” Imagine that.
From this hour or so affinity meeting, the entire conference, adults and students, assembled themselves by region. As I greeted my friends and colleagues from various New York Independent Schools, the adults began to settle in for the highlight of the conference, the Student-Led Adult/Student Dialogue. I am so proud of Danica, Leon, Surayya, Steven, and Niles. They set high standards for the discussion they facilitated with downtown NYC school adults, they planned and executed the session with perfect timing and provocative topics, they moved the adults along when we needed to transition, even when the adults did not want to, and they brilliantly showcased their leadership skills as they led us in an activity and follow-up discussion.
I have spoken to many adults in the 10 years I have attended POCC and they reflect my sentiment. It is difficult to put into words what transpired over the few days we shared. It is hard to translate a workshop when you are still making sense of how to implement the work into your own classroom, or your own life. It is challenging to explain what happened during the affinity group work because most of it is emotional and moving, not always a tangible outcome that can be put easily into words and action. Though many of us will share our experiences, please understand that it is difficult to express in sound bites what happened during POCC/SDLC over lunch, while transitioning from a class or prior to a meeting.
One thing is for sure, POCC is not solely a social gathering of Educators of Color and it is not a place where we see much of the state we are visiting. It is less a place and more of a space. A space to be greeted by faces, names, languages and clothing that are more familiar than not. A space to “let down your hair” and be embraced, supported, validated, and encouraged. There were many waves of opportunities encountered by the participants of POCC/SDLC and I look forward to slowly emptying my well and sharing them with you.