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Radical Dreaming: AIELOC Conference

By Shwetangna Chakrabarty
Radical Dreaming: AIELOC Conference

The Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color  2024 conference invited the UNIS Hanoi Students of Color Affinity Group to share their lived experiences and seek solutions to aim for a peaceful future together. (Photo source: Shwetangna Chakrabarty)

“My radical dream is to develop a sense of belonging for myself and for my student.”  - Anonymous participant

The Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) 2024 conference was an exploration into radical dreaming, the hope and courage to dream big and to envision all the possibilities for a more inclusive future. This conference was an opportunity for educators, thought leaders, and changes makers in international education to learn about inclusive and equitable practices in education. It was not just an event, but a celebration of diversity, leadership, and transformative learning.

I was very fortunate to be part of this conference, held at UNIS Hanoi in Vietnam from January 26-28.  It’s hard to sum up an such a moving experience but I will try to encapsulate the essence and key insights from the conference, reflecting on its impact on international education. This powerful message of radical dreaming allowed us to fully participate in the discussion and bring our whole self into uncomfortable conversations.

Leadership for Radical Dreaming

Exploring the dispositions and attributes of leaders who promote radical dreaming was an enriching aspect of the conference. It provided a platform for sharing experiences and strategies that encourage diversity and inclusion in leadership, offering valuable lessons like auditing recruitment policies with the diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) lens and/or empowering leaders of color to create safe spaces for radical change, almost like a dream.

“My radical dream is to see all students equally included in all conversations- academic and non-academic.” -Anonymous participant

Fostering Inclusive Leadership and Student Voice 

A highlight of the conference was the focus on student leadership, particularly the innovative approach adopted by international schools around the word. An example was the panel discussion hosted by students of UNIS Hanoi. By reimagining student leadership, the school has set a precedent for how international schools can empower students’ voice and choice. Hearing directly from student leaders gave an insight into the importance of including student voices in conversations about their learning and leadership journey, reinforcing the principle that effective leadership should be inclusive and should foster a sense of belonging.

Bridging Gaps in Co-Curricular Programs

An interesting discussion formed around investigating co-curricular programs with a DEIJ lens. The conversations around DEIJ within co-curricular programs shed light on existing opportunity gaps like including programs that do not support the local community’s interest or the host country culture. Intentional strategies to address these gaps are crucial for supporting a diverse student community, emphasizing that equity extends beyond the classroom and into every aspect of student life.

Cultural Inclusion for Positive Relationships

Cultural inclusion is at the heart of building positive relationships within international schools. Recognizing and valuing the cultural capital of ethnically diverse students is pivotal for creating an environment where all students can thrive. This approach not only impacts learning outcomes but also fosters a sense of belonging among students from diverse backgrounds.

“My radical dream is to be able to cater for all kinds of neural diversity from the challenged to the gifted.” -Anonymous participant

Restorative Practices in Education

The session on Global Restorative Education provided valuable insights into implementing restorative practices across the diverse community of international schools. There is a need for international schools to be committed to restorative teaching, highlighting the potential of restorative practices by fostering empathy, understanding, and open-mindedness.

“Being culturally relevant means, you know your students.”
– Marla Hunter (Hooper), Global DEI + Training Specialist.

Power Dynamics and Anti-Racism

The conference bravely tackled the complex issues of power dynamics and racism in international schools. Through workshops on power mapping and decoding language, participants were encouraged to reflect on their own school practices and consider how they can actively combat racism and promote a culture of inclusivity and equity.

“My radical dream is to educate all stakeholders on DEIJ and make them aware of the existing discrimination in international schools.” -Anonymous participant

Research as Liberation

As a personal takeaway, I was blown away by the work of Dr. Stephanie Renee Toliver who spoke about, along with other challenges, the role of research in achieving liberation. It was a powerful reminder of the potential of academic inquiry to challenge and change oppressive structures.

Creating Inclusive Spaces

Educators discussed the need for creating inclusive spaces in international schools. Queer and gender-affirming spaces contribute towards fostering a step towards inclusivity. By learning about systems like sj Miller’s Queer Literacy Framework, educators were empowered with actionable steps to make their schools more inclusive for all students, regardless of gender identity or expression.

“My radical dream is to provide a safe space for people of color to thrive and to continue to grow.” -Anonymous participant

Empowering Educators Through Self-Reflection

The workshop on identifying personal values and setting intentions based on these values was a necessary reminder of the importance of self-reflection in international education. By aligning personal and professional actions with core values like inclusion, diversity, empathy, and understanding, educators can lead and inspire their students to do the same.

In conclusion, the AIELOC 2024 conference was a path finder to the power of diversity, inclusion, and shared vision in international education. The key takeaways from the conference not only provide a roadmap for inclusive and equitable educational practices but also inspire hope for radical dreaming of a just and equitable world. As I reflect on the insights and lessons learned, it's clear that the path to a more inclusive and just educational landscape is through collective effort, inclusive thinking, radical dreaming, and a deep commitment to understanding and valuing the diverse voices within our communities.

And finally, here is my radical dream, “To rock the boat if the sail is not adjusted towards DEIJ initiatives and to bring about radical change through radical dreaming in teaching and learning.”

Shwetangna Chakrabarty is an international educator currently working in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She has over 17 years of experience in teaching different curricula in different countries. She has held multiple positions as an international educator: Curriculum Coordinator, University Counselor, Capstone/Research Project Manager, Council of International Schools and The New England Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation Coordinator, International Baccalaureate Examiner, the International Baccalaureate educator network program leader, and teacher. She is passionate about developing a culture of internationalism in education and being a change-maker and thought leader in international education. She is the Editor of The International Educator (TIE).

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