Inclusive & Diverse Curriculum in MS

Carl Vallely, Head of Middle School
I recently spoke with students about the attacks in Atlanta and the rise in hate crimes that the AAPI community is facing in this country. As I am sure you are aware, the Middle School English Department has prioritized crafting an inclusive, diverse curriculum that aims to provide our students with "windows and mirrors." The hope is that they will engage with texts and authors in which they both see themselves reflected and learn about the experiences of people who are different in myriad ways. We strive to empower our students to view themselves as change-makers by equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to know that they have the power to help create a more just, equitable world.
In 6th and 7th grade, students read texts written by contemporary authors of color to ensure our students experience books written by authors and featuring characters of diverse identities and backgrounds. Earlier this year, 7th graders read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. A National Book Award finalist in 2006, it is a graphic novel that interweaves three storylines: the story of the Monkey King, who is an iconic figure in Chinese mythology, a sitcom that highlights cultural anti-Asian sentiment and prejudice, and the story of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American boy whose family moves to a primarily white, suburban town after he was born in San Francisco. While feeling like an outsider and struggling to fit in is a common experience for adolescents, this book emphasizes the additional struggle of facing racial prejudice.
A central theme of 7th grade English is “identity,” and we focus on developing our awareness of marginalized people and perspectives and stories absent from popular culture. An essential element of DEI education is understanding language and vocabulary, and students learn key concepts such as micro-aggressions, tokenism, and white privilege. The 7th grade has just begun to read Inside Out & Back Again, a National Book Award and Newberry Honor Book published in 2011 by Thanhha Lai. Inside Out is a book of poetry that tells the story of Hà, a Vietnamese refugee coping with adjusting to life in the US, and further explores the above mentioned themes.
In 8th Grade humanities classes, our curriculum focuses on essential questions concerning identity, othering, leadership, responsibility, and power dynamics. Classes read texts such as Night (Wiesel) and Red Scarf Girl (Jiang), and primary-source texts from Facing History and Ourselves that delve deeply into prejudice and atrocities throughout history and around the world. The year’s culminating assessment is a multi-genre project in which students demonstrate skills gleaned from their year’s work to highlight an important social change-maker.
As an inclusive community, Brimmer welcomes students who will increase the diversity of our school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or any other characteristic protected from discrimination under state or federal law, in the administration of our educational policies, admissions practices, financial aid decisions, and athletic and other school-administered programs.