People of Color Conference Reflection

By Roxanne Parker, 6th Grade Teacher

Two weeks ago, The Philadelphia School sent a cohort of teachers and administrators, including me, to the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference (PoCC). It was a transformative, weighty experience – I could not feel more privileged to have gone.

As I was walking out the door to head to the conference with my coat and suitcase, many of my students stopped me and asked where I was going. When I told them, there were a variety of reactions ranging from “Why aren’t you taking me?” to “Why do you need to go there?”

Both reactions, I think, underscore the importance of such conferences.

There were incredible, shining moments, like when the heads of school of color were called to the stage to be recognized. We got to see our very own Lisa Sun cross the stage and be recognized for the work she has begun to do at TPS. The conference hosts noted that six years ago, the stage looked sparse, but this year, the heads of school could scarcely fit on the stage.

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There were also difficult moments, such as discussing the ways students of color can feel alienated or unsupported in primarily white institutions. These discussions resonated with me and settled in my heart; I am a woman of color, new to TPS this year and coming from a school led by people of color and filled with students of color. The Philadelphia School is an amazing institution, but the culture shock I felt was real. It was inspiring to dig deep in conversations about how we can support students experiencing that same culture shock.

These conversations are difficult and uncomfortable, but that is what makes them important. Next year, I hope to present at the conference, focusing on ways teachers coming from public schools can support themselves and others who are transitioning to independent schools. I am so grateful to work in an institution that sent me to PoCC, and cannot wait to continue the work.