Being Known

By Bess McKinney and Dr. Ed Castro, EICL Coordinators

We all have many parts of us that make up who we are—multiple parts of our identity.

Some are more public than others, some we chose, and others are applied to us by the world around us. Some we are fiercely proud of. Some we are still figuring out.

Our theme this school year is “knowing and being known.” To be known, I think, is to be seen as all of who you are—all the facets of identity that you want others to understand, recognize and celebrate. And at the core of our work as EICL Coordinators is to help students feel that we are looking out for them and make sure that we create spaces and structures at EPS where all of who they are can be known. Opportunities for students to be known exist in lots of parts of EPS—in sports, in clubs, in advisory, and in classes. Over the next couple of weeks, three EICL-led initiatives at EPS will continue to aid students and EPS adults’ sense of being known: continuing to build and grow EPS affinity groups, beginning faculty and staff affinity groups, and adding name pronunciation videos and student pronouns to Four11.

Upper School and Middle School affinity groups will have their first meetings of the year in the next couple of weeks, and faculty and staff groups will begin following those meetings. These groups, which students and faculty/staff can choose to attend, are an intentional gathering of people who have a facet of their identity in common (such as race, gender, or other social identifiers) and who can speak from the “I” perspective about that part of their identity. Upper School and Middle School groups are student-led and adult-supported. Ultimately, affinity groups help all of us to hear our own voices. They provide a space for building community, celebrating joy, sharing successes and common challenges. They create a space for us to feel more known here at EPS.

Adding videos of students and faculty/staff pronouncing their names, as they want them to be pronounced, is yet another step towards us really knowing—respecting and caring—for one another. “‘A person’s name is part of their cultural identity.’ A failure to recognize this extraordinary significance can cut deep in the classroom.”1 Too frequently, students let mispronunciations of names pass. Our new addition to Four11 is one step to avoid this and to recognize the deep importance of each of our names.

Similarly, adding student and faculty/staff pronouns to Four11 recognizes each of our gender identities, thus helping us move past assumptions and towards being known.

Every day when I connect my computer to the Wi-Fi projector, students see my background and can read the wise words of Grace Lee Boggs, who said, “the only way to survive is by taking care of one another.” Every day I hope that they remember that taking care of each other is essential. And, when I learned that our 2022-23 school year focus is “knowing and being known,” I thought of Boggs’ words. Being known is intimately and critically connected to being taken care of. And, as study after study has demonstrated, Boggs was right—we survive, we can only truly thrive when we are connected, when we are truly known by others.