An interview with Jasmine Love, Catlin Gabel Director of Inclusion and Outreach
Jasmine Love has devoted her career to fostering communities in which all children can pursue educational excellence. After many years in a leadership position at Chadwick School in Los Angeles, she joined the Catlin Gabel community in the summer of 2015.
At what stage should children be introduced to multicultural programming?
The students need a very seamless transition from division to division, and that’s why I think it’s very important to begin to have these conversations in preschool and continue through twelfth grade. We begin with a developmentally appropriate focus on differences and identity and then begin to explore privilege and systemic inequities as we rise into the older grades. I would love to teach classes at some point on culture and identity for all of our students.
How does self-identity change as children develop?
When you’re in preschool and kindergarten students are trying to figure out, “Who am I as I relate to my family” and “who am I as an individual?” They’re not going to be grappling with huge racial issues – but they might notice, this child looks different from me or that adult looks different from my parent or guardian, and they’re going to just say it, and it’s wonderful, it’s refreshing, and we should be able to answer those questions. As they grow they begin to notice differences and hear about people being treated differently and we also begin to explain the history in this country.
As we move through all the stages of development the message should be that difference is good, not fragmenting but something we all share, we all have something unique and different about us. We all have different family structures, we come from different neighborhoods, and it’s all good.
In Lower School they start noticing more, “Who am I in relation to my friends?” And In the Middle School, that’s when students become these social justice kids, and start questioning society, asking things like “What do you mean, they can’t get clean water in Niger?” And they want to do something to make a difference. By Upper School they are ready to change the world and finding their own unique identities – and this is the place they become our teachers, because the youth always lead us in these discussions. They’re more fearless.
I believe every single child is a child of diversity, meaning nobody is ever just looking through one lens. We all have privileges and we all have something that takes power away in this society. We have to move away from simplistic notions of diversity and understand the nuances. It’s a skill but one our students are going to need in the future.
What are some of your favorite techniques for promoting cultural awareness?
My main tool is having conversations across the lines that normally divide a community. One of the things that I think is going to be important at Catlin Gabel is to have a shared language around words like equity, culture, race, affinity, inclusion, identity, etcetera. I enjoy bringing people together for conversations but I am a teacher at heart, so I love student-directed activities–films, discussions, using theater and improv, creating culture and identity modules, collages, any kind of art. So it is less about techniques and more about safety for these inclusive teachable moments.