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An Ongoing Conversation

This piece highlights KIS engagement in DEIJ work.

In September, a group of KIS teachers joined a professional and personal conversation about critical race theory and international education. Hosted by Darnell Fine, Wendy Windust, Devin Bokaer, and Ceci Gomez-Galvez, the course “So What If We Are Teaching Critical Race Theory” creates a platform for all participants to share their experiences, ideas, and questions. Each module explores a facet of CRT – the academic theory that racism is part of American society and that racism is intersectional – to help teachers better understand the theory and its relevance to their identity, experiences, and profession. 

Teaching and learning principal Liz Cho, a BIPOC educator, was on maternity leave when George Floyd was killed in 2020. She remembers watching people around the world, including faculty and students at KIS, react to the injustice, not only of one man’s death, but of the very system that brought Floyd to his last day. Social change is not sustained by emotion alone. But this burst of anger and grief opened honest, vulnerable conversations and practical, needed responses in families, communities, and governments. The conversation and change is ongoing.

"As someone who looks at teacher training, professional development, and curriculum, I wanted to be there,” Ms. Cho says of her desire to help form the KIS response to issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). DEIJ is threaded through multiple curricula, programs, and activities at KIS. Indeed, the schoolwide goal to build compassion is foundational to responding to DEIJ issues and at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, KIS director Michelle Quirin announced KIS’s continued commitment to DEIJ work. 

Ms. Cho recognized the unique needs of KIS as an international school. She invited Darnell Fine to lead faculty workshops on DEIJ work and anti-racism. During the last spring semester, Dr. Josephine Kim met with faculty and staff, students, and parents, addressing implicit bias, racism toward Asians, colonialism, and the necessary first step of any DEIJ work, awareness and self-reflection. 

"As I was learning more and more about the importance of DEIJ work and why it matters, CRT came up,” Ms. Cho says. She decided to learn more, especially after hearing the term in political conversation. She joined “So What” in part to strengthen her knowledge of CRT. “When someone asks, I want to be able to respond to what CRT is,” Ms. Cho says. To that end, this course is helpful. The conversation isn’t over though. Ms. Cho wonders how CRT might find context in international schools broadly, and how KIS can recognize, support, and value DEIJ work while acknowledging the underlying causes of systemic issues.