English department attends diversity retreat

Daniyaal Ghani and Will Chasin

Last Thursday, the Upper Division English Department participated in their annual professional development retreat. The retreat, which focused on team building and growing the skill set of each faculty member, took place at Wave Hill, a Public Garden and Cultural Center in Riverdale. 

The event was led by Rosetta Lee, a diversity speaker and trainer who presented about leading open and inclusive conversations around race, sex, class, gender, and other topics that arise when discussing works of literature in the classroom, English teacher Dr. Adam Casdin said.

“One of the most compelling distinctions Rosetta Lee made was between thinking in polarities versus binaries,” Casdin said. Polarities draw awareness to the relationship between inclusive classroom discussion, and considering unity and diversity as adjacent conditions, he said.

English Department Chair Vernon Wilson learned new ways to proactively address when students make offensive comments, even unintentionally, and how it is the teacher’s job to be an upstander and bring that comment to the attention of the class. As the individual with the most power in the classroom, teachers have the responsibility of explaining why something is hurtful so students would not make such remarks in the future, he said.

While teachers may not need to incorporate skills like these into the classroom immediately, they will be useful if a situation involving an offensive comment arises, Wilson said. He is better equipped than he was before the retreat to break down, in the moment, what just happened. 

Wilson said he feels lucky to be at a school that can send teachers on yearly retreats to help improve their teaching skills. The school’s reputation gives the department the ability to work with experts whose knowledge helps faculty members better benefit their students, he said.