Faculty program promotes equity through discussion


Jeremiah Levy

Teachers who are members of Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity work to fight sexism, racism, classism and other forms of bigotry at the high school through discussion and activities.

In such a busy world, it’s easy to lose touch with your peers, your identity and your community. SEED is designed to change that.
Staff from all over the school are tied together by shared participation in a discussion-based program called SEED, or Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, which promotes revisitation of one’s own identity and its impact on others. The goals of the program include promoting a shift in perspective and growth as a person and as a member of our community. SEED is a national organization, with its BHS participants meeting once a month for three hours. Across Brookline, SEED allows teachers to form more considerate and sensitive bonds with themselves, their coworkers and other members of their communities.
Malcolm Cawthorne, METCO Coordinator, has been a facilitator for the past four years.
“There are four of us in the building who are trained SEED facilitators. What that means is that we run professional development for teachers,” Cawthorne said. “What SEED really tries to do is get teachers to reflect upon their personal experiences and to think about what personal experiences they have with their multitudes of identities, with the hope that that would get educators to think differently about how they interact with their students, as well as to think about their journey going forward.”
Years ago, racial issues caused guidance counselor and SEED facilitator Kara López to recognize the need for SEED and to fight for its place at the high school. She teamed up with a national facilitator from Cambridge, Mass. and wrote a grant to fund training.
“I thought it was high time that we sit down together and start peeling back the layers of our very, very complicated identities,” López said.

The high school teachers who participate in SEED meet once every month in a three-hour meeting.

The lessons taken away from SEED are described by many as essential in terms of exploring identity. Spanish teacher and SEED facilitator Lindsay Davis feels it is a necessary program for the school.
“My belief, and what I want the school and district’s beliefs to be, is that if you’re working as a teacher, your job is also to navigate conversations, especially in a town like Brookline that is predominantly white and has such wealth disparity,” Davis said. “There’s a responsibility to have the conversation. I would say do it because there are so many benefits to understanding yourself better, having better relationships, teaching more effectively, and I would say do it because it’s your job.”
While race is a crucial part of the complex puzzle of our identities that is discussed in SEED meetings, it’s not nearly all of it. López said that it is important to examine all pieces.
“We don’t just do race in SEED. We do ableism, we do classism, we do sexism. We do gender and sexuality. I’m probably missing some, but we all have so many different identities, and those influence how we evolve and how we see the world and how we work with each other,” López said.
In López’s eyes, SEED allows teachers who have had different experiences to interact with one another in a way that helps all of them to adapt their perspectives.
“How do you learn and discover things about what you don’t know? The only way you can do that is by listening and by hearing things that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. That means sharing space and developing relationships with people who are different than you,” López said.
Cawthorne said that SEED functions as a group and that facilitators don’t structure thinking but rather guide the path to a revisitation of self-awareness.
“I think our job is to provide some information but really to spur their own thinking and to ask the questions that they need,” Cawthorne said. “It is sometimes small groups, sometimes it’s large groups, sometimes it’s what we call personal testimony, where everyone gets a chance to say what they need to say and everybody gets a chance to hear it. It’s important to mix that up.”
Davis said that the program has had a profound impact on her.
“I feel more connected to the school, which makes me want to work harder, which makes me communicate more with other teachers,” Davis said. “The short blurb would be: do it because I think it better helps you understand yourself and how you impact others, but do it because it’s your responsibility.”