The Bay School Blog

The Bay School of San Francisco

SEID Members Attend The Student Diversity Leadership Conference

“SDLC is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9–12) from across the U.S. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community. Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participants will develop effective cross-cultural communication skills and better understand the nature and development of effective strategies for social justice.” – National Association of Independent Schools

Last month, members of Bay’s student leadership group SEID (Student Equity Inclusion and Diversity) attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in Atlanta, GA. After their return, we caught up with Makayla ‘18 and Boris ‘19 to ask about their experience and what they took away from the conference.

Why was it important for you to attend SDLC?

Makayla: This conference was important to me because I like working with social justice/DEI issues around the Bay community. Also, it’s really hard being an African American student in a predominantly white school. I feel that sometimes some race issues are pushed aside in our community and I wanted to be able to talk comfortably with people like me who share the same conflicts/issues within their school. I wanted to experience this new community and accept the guidance they have given me so that I can help resolve these issues that I am facing within my school.

Boris: For me, I identify as a Latino and I felt like this conference was the perfect place for me to share my experience being a part of a minority group at a predominantly white private school. I think I was also hoping to meet other Latino students who are in my position and to hear their personal experiences. I also wanted a place where I could feel safe talking with other students of color who go to private schools and the different ways we could work through racism at our schools.

What did you learn? What was your biggest takeaway from the conference?

Makayla: The main thing I learned during the conference was to STAY WOKE. What I mean by that is I need to be able to identify these issues and stand up for what I believe in no matter what the obstacles are. I also learned that you can’t do it alone and I need a strong support system when trying to resolve DEI issues around a particular community, especially a predominantly white community.

Boris:  I honestly learned a lot from both the counselors and the students that attended SDLC. Knowing that there are thousands of other students of color going to private schools and facing similar challenges really empowered me and made me realize that in the end, all of the hardships are worth it. I learned about the power of storytelling and sharing our cultures so that people can better understand our background.

Now that you have all of this knowledge, how do you plan to use it?

Makayla: The biggest goal I hope to accomplish at my time here at Bay is supporting the students of color and making them feel comfortable and supported in the Bay community at all times. I want to serve as a support system to people who don’t know how to handle these DEI issues so that they can better understand and comprehend what’s going on while feeling supported.

Boris: I am hoping to reopen the HOLA (Hispanic/Latino Alliance) Club next year and I am hoping for more people to come. I think it is important for our Hispanic community to get together and offer our culture to the rest of the community. I am also hoping to continue working with SEID to make Bay a safer and more open place for students of color.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Evening

By. Brooke Wilson, Asst. Director of Admission
Community is a word that often conjures images of rainbows, hand-holding, and puppies. What we acknowledge at Bay is that community does include warmth and positivity, sometimes even an impromptu Hamilton sing-along in the dining hall — but community is also forged and strengthened by challenge. Creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community in multiple dimensions is a challenge for most independent schools. The same is true for Bay.
Bay Admissions hosts two Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Evenings each year. These events offer an opportunity for prospective students and parents/guardians, to talk in small groups with current Bay students, parents/guardians, faculty and staff. In December the discussion was lively, honest and deeply engaging. We ask prospective families to bring their most challenging questions and their deepest concerns. Our community representatives responded to these questions with thoughtful examples from their personal experiences of Bay.
Some of the questions families asked in December were:
“How do students who receive Tuition Assistance experience Bay?”
“What was the school’s official response to the recent presidential election and how are current events addressed in the classroom?”
“What are the affinity groups? What does the White Students Unlearning Racism group do?
When preparing to participate in these evenings our families and students aren’t provided with talking points or scripts. There’s no rehearsal. They are simply told this: “Our goal is to be authentic — not perfect. Tell your truth, and work in service of families trying to make a really important decision about where they will spend the next four years.”
Tonight, we will host our final DEI Night of the season. We look forward to more challenging questions and to sharing more of what it means to be a part of the Bay community.

Meet Bay’s New Boys Varsity Basketball Coach

An old proverb once said, “He who refreshes others will himself feel refreshed.” This is the motto that motivates Bay’s new Boys Varsity Head Basketball Coach, Nicholas Ellsworth, to continue coaching and give back to students year after year. Although his initial motivation to begin coaching high school basketball was staying connected to the game after playing in college, Nicholas now says coaching is his “opportunity to give more purpose to his life and in turn be a positive influence in the lives of others.”

Nicholas shares, “I remember being a high school basketball player and there were coaches that had a huge influence on me and there were coaches that didn’t. For me, coaching is an opportunity for the players who are going to remember these experiences for the rest of their lives, to not only remember the experiences but to look back and think, ‘wow, I really learned something from that man, he made me a better person and a better basketball player.’’’

How does he plan to accomplish making the players better people? Well, for starters he has established three main principles for the team to focus on: work ethic, respect and self-respect, and doing more for others than you do for yourself. He says, “we pride ourselves on our work ethic!”

These philosophies were derived from Nicholas’ experiences both playing and coaching over the years.  Before landing at Bay, Nicholas coached high school basketball for Mercy High School in Burlingame and Burlingame High School. He himself played basketball at Shasta College and was later recruited to play at Chico State before an injury ended his playing days.

As for how he’s getting along with the boys this year? He loves it! “There are so many different personalities. On van rides everyone is making jokes and giving each other a hard time, it’s like a big family. It makes me feel young again.” And  Nicholas’ goal for the boy’s team this season… “To win a championship!”

Artists As Activists

Can art change the world? History and current examples show that it can, and the effects are profound. Artists As Activists (AAA), one of Bay’s interdisciplinary courses, integrates political, social and art history with hands-on studio art experiences to explore the ways in which the arts are a tool for social change. AAA students have worked for several weeks to create their final projects of the term that artistically represent issues that they care deeply about, and the results have been phenomenal.

For her final project, Sydney ’18 explored the issue of body image and social media, and the negative effects that this issue can have on young women. She says,”For my final project, I researched how girls are influenced by negative body image at such a young age. Because I am a young woman on multiple social media platforms, I have also been affected, so I know that it is a real issue. The little girl in my piece is clear because she is pure and open to the opportunities life has to offer. She is looking at a woman who has internalized the negative comments that have been targeted at her.

I want my installation to inform the viewer about the label ‘ideal body’ society introduces to women and how beauty is not only about body shape. Even though it may not be obvious, some girls are aware of this issue and are already worried about the shape of their bodies in elementary school.”Sydney’s installation beautifully captures the jarring reality of a topic that impacts millions of women each year.
Clara ’17 focused her project on the very serious issue of overpopulation. Her goal was to “urge people to consider their own knowledge about overpopulation and give them the sense of where we are headed so that they are motivated to consider their impact on the problem and discuss solutions.” In order to get this message across in a visual art form, Clara created a large painting on canvas and displayed it near the lockers so students couldn’t help but see it.
She says, “I chose to create a scene of complexity breaking into nothingness in hopes of showing the viewer where we are headed and what we might say in hindsight.  However, I struggled to balance my piece: making it clearly about overpopulation but also slightly unclear so as to be sticky and thought-provoking.  I ended up mixing both abstract and identifiable objects to show evidence of overpopulation and increased complexity, and I integrated some quotes and facts discretely into the chaos since they were so powerful.”
Abbey ’18 decided to take a different approach to her final project by promoting happiness and creating a stress-free, child-like environment. Understanding the stress that students can often feel as they approach their final exams, Abbey created an exhibit for students to write on the walls, play hop-scotch and hug a mannequin covered in fuzzy balls, all while being surrounded positives quotes and reminders to smile, laugh and just generally enjoy life.
Abbey describes her installation, “For my final project, I chose to look at smiling, and trying to get people to smile more through my art. I focused on exploring fashion design and incorporating it with my topic and used many medias in the process. In some ways, I was able to incorporate painting, drawing, and sculpture into my installation. I was inspired by my childhood happiness and incorporating that into my theme of smiling more. I got this idea when I noticed how negative students’ attitudes are towards school and the stress that comes along with it. So, I wanted to change that and make people happy about something in the school environment, especially during stressful finals week!”
 Artists and activists like Sydney, Clara and Abbey are capable of influencing change through their art.  Whether it be a serious message or playful escapism, and we are proud to give Bay students the space, guidance, and resources needed to discover how to do exactly that.

Messiness and Change

By. Andy Shaw, Dean of Curriculum and Innovation

I’ve been thinking of late about the messiness around school. Not the literal cleanliness of the space, to be precise: despite an occasional abandoned lunch plate I think the students are doing a pretty good job this year taking care of the building. The messiness I’ve been thinking about has more to do with the fact that the process of learning isn’t linear, it’s not “clean”, it’s not free of setbacks and chaos. This messiness is visible everywhere in school. I see it in the Humanities rooms, where assignments are posted on walls and then adorned with sticky notes where classmates offer praise and critique; we’re posting rough drafts, not final drafts. I see it in the richness of final projects, from art pieces to science presentations to graded discussions, all of which allow for and require much more complexity and nuance than a traditional final exam: there is rarely a single right answer or a single valid approach.  And I see messiness in the self-reflections students are writing for their report cards this week; at Bay report cards don’t simply capture the end result of the term by way of a grade, they capture the complicated learning process that unfolded over the term, described both from the student’s and the teacher’s perspective.

I like the fact that our school is messy in this way because I think honoring and showing the messiness is not only a more accurate representation of what real learning looks like, but is also a good representation of what I hope our graduates’ lives will be like. I hope our students take on the messy work of the world, whether it is in the form of wrestling with tough research questions, solving intractable world problems, or being the kind of makers and creators who create elegance out of chaos.

I also like the fact that as a school we are willing to show students, and parents/guardians, the messiness of being a teacher and being a school. We try new things as teachers, and we’re open about that with families. We tinker, we test, we assess, we improve. We know that the challenges of the coming decades require fundamental changes in the way we “do school,” and so we don’t hide from those outside the staffulty the fact that we’re being messy as well, to try always to grow, to succeed, to build the best school we can for our students and our world. For me it’s not about major initiatives, although those are sometimes necessary, but rather about the constant process, as individuals and as an institution, of asking ourselves, “How did that go? How can I do better next time? Is this getting me closer to where I want to end up?” For us at Bay, of course, “where we want to end up” is the certainty that we’re doing everything we can to prepare our students for the complex world they’ll lead, decades from now.

Of course, as Ted and Nancy Sizer, two of my favorite educators and writers, titled one of their books, “The students are watching.” The not-so-secret payoff of making visible the adults’ messiness – our ongoing experimentation, reflection, inquiry, and improvement – comes from the fact that the students are always watching, always absorbing, always modeling their growth off of what they see around them. And so even while I am pleased that Bay’s efforts at innovation and improvement are making the school the best place it can be, I’m at least as pleased that our students are learning to take risks, disrupt, reflect, adopt a growth mindset, and pursue a life of continuous improvement by watching the adults around them do the same. That’s the best kind of messiness I could ask for.

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