By Stephen Grant, Beginning & Lower School Counselor
Feedback we’ve gotten from Middle Schoolers and Upper Schoolers is that, in hindsight, they wish there had been an affinity group for them when they were younger.
So, I’m coming to understand that kids in elementary school have these experiences around identity that they don’t necessarily have the language to explain, or the sort of the abstract cognitive thinking to put it into context.
And because they aren’t in that solid place of questioning who they are, affinity groups happen a little bit differently in the Lower School. I circulate a survey of groups that kids might be interested in forming, and then some kids elect to be a part of them. There was a bit of a growing place there where kids were coming to fully understanding what affinity groups were and why we had them; it’s not just about an affinity for soccer, or something we like to do, but these parts of our identity that don’t always feel as though they perfectly belong in this community.
In the Lower School affinity groups, the focus is on identity in general, with some fellowship and a growing awareness of diversity, even within a particular identifier. For example, in the Black Affinity Group, we can talk about how there are lots of different ways to be Black and all of them are great. So, it’s really about positive identity development, rather than a big focus on how does this aspect of my identity fit into the larger sort of social systems and things like that.
We also need to explain to other students who aren’t participating why affinity groups are important, and explain it to parents as well. I think that goes to helping people understand broadly the underpinnings of equity. That we need to look at what kids need individually, and be supportive and understand that it’s not going to be the same for everybody.