(September 27, 2018) Inclusion, acceptance and expanding the circle of 'we' were a few of the messages shared during a two-day focus at Kenora Catholic on
deep diversity. The sessions were led by Shakil Choudhury, Co-Founder of Anima Leadership and author of Deep Diversity Overcoming Us vs. Them.
"I hope the students
and staff take away a message of empathy," said Choudhury. "Empathy for the situation of other people especially people who come from a minority group context, whether that is around race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or whatever it might be. We know from all the research, that when people feel like they matter and belong everything goes better. We are more productive, creative, problem solvers, we think outside the box and we bounce back when there is a crisis."
On Thursday Choudhury spoke to a Grade 11 / 12 class at St. Thomas Aquinas High School about the importance of being aware of stereotypes and social cues.
Grade 12 student Avery Kasprick had a lightbulb moment during Choudhury's session. "When he was talking about the cue words like 'disability' you automatically think of a person in a wheelchair, you don't think of a mental disability or a slight walk impediment. Those trigger words that you associate with things, it was a lightbulb moment for me," she said. "Wow, we really need to pay attention to those cue words and the effect they have on us."
The session inspired Kasprick to think and act differently. "When I go out in the world I'm really going to watch out and maybe if I meet someone culturally different from me I am going to learn who they are as a person and not judge them from their race," she said.
During the two-day visit, Choudhury talked with students, teachers, staff and system leaders in various workshops and sessions including a keynote address to all staff at the board's professional development day.
"All of my work is about helping people create environments where everyone feels like they matter and belong, whether it is in the classroom or the workplace," he said. "The book is about how do we expand the circle of we so we can all feel like we belong."
Choudhury's messages left a lasting impression on staff and students but the students also left an impression on him too. "I found the students engaging. I found them thoughtful, and I see not just what is happening in front of me, but I also see what is represented in the hallways and schools. I see the artwork and I am really moved by the feeling of kindness," he said. "My overall impression is that these students are wonderful and the people (at Kenora Catholic) are big-hearted and want to do the right thing in trying to figure out the challenge around diversity and inclusion."
The Deep Diversity session with Shakil Choudhury is part of Kenora Catholic's goals around Equity and Inclusive Education.