Among the most important areas of development in recent years is that of curriculum. From the humanities to STEM disciplines, teaching and learning includes discussions of race, racism, and inclusion.
Professional academic organizations such as the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute encourage teachers to consider the value of students having opportunities to see themselves in what they read and study.* Derryfield’s humanities teachers choose a range of texts that are intellectually challenging and diverse in perspectives.
Middle and Upper School English teachers continuously work to select diverse texts to offer representation of and education to students on the topics of race, ethnicity, identity, justice, and belonging. These texts offer students different lenses and a shared experience through which they can discuss and examine these topics. In 6th and 7th grades, students read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor and Flying Lessons and Other Short Stories by Ellen Oh. In 8th grade, students examine Asian American identity by reading Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese and learn about gender norms and the juvenile justice system through the book, The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater.
In upper school, race is explored in the fall of freshman year through texts such as Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and Richard Wright's work, Black Boy. The year is completed with a unit on books that represent individuals within the LGBTQ+ community including such texts as Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth and this is how it always is by Laurie Frankel. The entire sophomore year is devoted to world cultures and students read a diverse number of texts exposing them to different cultures and identities beyond the American one in seminal works such as Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. In junior year, students dive deeply into the American identity to focus on the question: what does it mean to be an American? They study the founding principles of the country and examine the role of slavery and the impact and importance of civil discourse. Texts include Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass, Passing by Nella Larson, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Senior year students can choose to take a range of writing and art electives or enroll in the Advanced Topic option to explore Consumer Culture. Their study culminates in the reading of Toni Morrison’s book, The Bluest Eye, which focuses on the painful reality of racism in the United States.
Understanding the complexities of the past provides us with a foundation for taking on civic responsibility. Our history teachers provide many opportunities for students to examine how the injustices of the past inform our current reality:
In 6th and 8th grades, students participate in service learning projects with new Americans, adults and children, who live in the city of Manchester.
In 9th grade, students have the unusual opportunity to spend the entire year exploring the modern history of Asia, including China, North Korea, and the Middle East
In 11th grade, the US includes an examination of slavery, abolition, and Reconstruction, and addresses the legacy of the those events in the 20th century.
Science, Math, STEM
Gender parity in our STEM departments and student experiences has been an ongoing priority for our team. The Science Department faculty evenly represents men and women, and our Math Department is 42% female. Both departments are chaired or co-chaired by a woman. Over the last several years, our STEM faculty have been implementing initiatives aimed at drawing girls into the realm of STEM. Some examples include:
In November 2019, the Science Department hosted the TechWomen Ambassadors
program at DS, which brings women working in technology to schools to talk about paths to careers in STEM.
During the two previous years, Science Department Chair Mary Ann Watt conducted a monthly "Open Circuit" forum that was designed to bring together girls from all grades interested in STEM. Participating students took on design challenges and heard faculty member Dr. Taylor Moon talk about her Ph.D. research in Microbiology and Immunology.
Leading for the Common Good
Leading for the Common Good is a multifaceted program developing character and empowering students to lead. We are building the LEAD course, which is designed to develop students' social and emotional intelligence in grades 6-12, in accordance with best practice, which is to cultivate leadership skills, ethics, mindfulness and equity & inclusion understanding together. Students are guided in how to tackle challenging topics in productive and respectful ways, and to shape the culture of the middle and upper schools for the positive.
Derryfield is known for its culture of a caring, close community, but we must aim higher. Our faculty and staff take seriously their mission to prepare Derryfield students to become community leaders which includes helping them develop the skills to be anti-racist and anti-discriminatory. We continually educate ourselves about best equity practices in the classroom and across the campus. We must understand who does not feel a full sense of belonging and work to find solutions.