School hosts cultural competency training

Alex Goldstein

In order to discuss how teachers can respect and honor the identities of their students, all new faculty members participated in the school’s first cultural competency training, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Janine Jones said.

“We thought [the training] would be the best way to not just talk the talk, but also walk the walk,” Janine Jones said. “It is one thing to say we are a diverse and inclusive community, but it is another thing to actually spend the time really teaching and training people on what that really means.”

The training was facilitated by Steven Jones, CEO of Jones Inclusive, a company working to develop leaders who are fighting oppression.

“[Steven Jones], the facilitator, talked about the necessity of building our skills, and that each of us may be more skilled in talking about one part of diversity but less skilled in talking about other areas,” new English teacher Dara Weinberg said. “As a new faculty member, I felt like Harvard-Westlake was investing in building my skills, not just going to my area of strength, my own background, but encouraging me to get more competent at communicating across cultural differences.”

Every new faculty and staff member attended the two-day training, which helped them understand the values of the school while also getting time to get to know one another, Janine Jones said.

“This was an opportunity for them to really do that deep dive into uncomfortable topics and to hopefully get them to start thinking inwardly, so that their performance outwardly matches better,” Janine Jones said.

Steven Jones spoke to the group about what he calls the Three Circles: individual, culture and institution. He said that if someone wants to connect with someone on the cultural or institutional level, they must first connect on the individual level, Weinberg said.

“He encouraged us to begin at the individual level, and I am going to definitely take that into the classroom and give my students an opportunity to tell me who they are as individuals before I ask them to conform to the culture of Harvard-Westlake or the culture of my classroom,” Weinberg said.