Cultivating Cultural Competency
I asked a few students to share their takeaways from Friday’s Cooper Series guest lecture. And, as if to support the speaker’s “thesis,” if you will, the students’ reflections are indicators of how their individual experiences and involvement within the Brewster community help form their own identities. Here the students share their impressions and takeaways of Dr. Derrick Gay’s message.
– Marcia Eldredge, Communications Director
Senior Evan Edmonds shared the following: one standout about Dr. Derrick Gay’s presentation this morning was the emphasis on our society and how it will look when we move on from Brewster. On a campus like ours, it’s easy to forget that there is a world outside of high school, but it’s there, waiting for us. Dr. Gay touched on many varying aspects of society that we may encounter in the coming future and the biggest connection to one of those changing factors we can make as Brewster students is the transition from the ‘cubical’ style of work toward collaborative and cooperative workplaces. Dr. Gay mentioned huge companies like Google and Yahoo have already switched to this method, and I believe the reason for that put simply is that it is more effective. Communicating with people and sharing ideas is a much more productive way of problem solving because there are multiple brains all working in their own unique ways for a solution. Because there is such high value in mastering collaboration, cooperation, communication, etc. it is important that we are learning these skills, which is why group-based skills are so emphasized in our everyday learning environment at Brewster. There is more reasoning to why we do STAD (Student Team Achievement Divisions) reviews than just giving teachers a break; it is absolutely crucial in today’s world to learn these skills, and I believe Dr. Gay wanted to punctuate that.
For junior Sal Fabio, he gleaned the importance and value of having all identities not just represented but accepted and welcomed within one culture, sharing: Dr. Gay put a big emphasis on identity and what exactly identity means. This year at Brewster, the entire student body and every person affiliated with Brewster is on a quest to have one culture. At the All School, I realized that everyone in the auditorium had completely different identifiers on their notecards. I believe that it’s very important to recognize everyone’s identifiers in the community and to feel comfortable to express them with one another. Sharing experiences, ideas, mindsets, and traits that make you unique and reflect your best self are major keys to fully achieving one culture here at Brewster.
Senior Ciera Burden came away from Dr. Gay’s presentation with a better understanding of the intentions of the Brewster curriculum. Here’s her take: identity can be defined as the characteristics, traits, social relations, social groups, etc., that allows one to be perceived by others and themselves. The amazing Derrick Gay stated that in order for one to be successful in life, they must be able to work in different groups, acknowledge their blind spots, and be emotionally literate. This is due to how the world is forming into one that is cosmopolitan. These valuable words struck me and allowed me to understand the intent and mission here at Brewster Academy. At Brewster Academy, faculty members encourage students to collaborate and recognize our emotions on a day-to-day basis. We can see the mixture of different identities and collaboration through Brewster’s unique aspect, that support out curriculum, called “STAD”. STAD stands for “Student Team Achievement Divisions”, in which students from all different learning levels work together to learn a topic or solve for a solution. I’ve learned that Brewster is preparing us for the real world, in which we will have to be able to work with people who identify themselves in different ways.
Brewster also collaborates with Yale, and gives students an emotional literacy course, which allows one to manage their emotions in which they are able to recognize why they are feeling a certain way, what actions contribute to these feelings, and how they could stop feeling certain feelings if they are undesirable. It was incredible to hear that we need emotional literacy to be successful because most students see the emotional literacy course as another burden or commitment. However, after Derrick Gray’s words, I began to see the necessity of emotional literacy and gained new insight.
Being the president of O.N.E (One Nationality and Ethnicity) club here at Brewster, I automatically felt connected to the topic. The club allows for people to acknowledge differences between themselves and others, and support and learn the culture [of others]. It was interesting to do the activity in which students had to choose 15 words that identify themselves, and share it with others. You were able to see how you perceived yourself, and the different perceptions of the student body. It was also interesting to touch base on the word “diversity.” Derrick Gay stated that all of the aspects of his speech were not defined as diversity. Although diversity is defined as having variation, many people find their blind spot when they hear the word diversity or words related to it. This is because they believe that diversity doesn’t pertain to the way that they “identify themselves”. It was interesting to hear this because that is one of the main reasons that we do not refer to the “O.N.E club” as a “Diversity Club”
Evan Edmonds concludes with a message to all Brewster students: Tying back to my original point, there is a world outside of Brewster, and it is changing rapidly; so we have to be ready for it! Remember what Dr. Gay said – communication is invaluable, so hold onto what you learn here at Brewster, because you’ll need it someday.
Read about Dr. Derrick Gay and his work at www.derrickgay.com.