Celebrating diverse perspectives and experiences and cultivating an inclusive community are at the heart of Town’s curriculum and values. We know that diversity does not describe any single individual or group’s identity, but rather honors the differences within our collective community. At Town, every member of our community contributes to our school’s diversity, and every member benefits from it. We value the unique perspectives and backgrounds that each member brings to our community and regularly invite our families to share about their cultures. We know that the life story and experiences of every boy and family in our school enrich the learning environment for the entire community. The process of defining cultural competencies is dynamic, and we revisit this often as we guide our students to develop their capacity to understand identity, to connect with others and to have a positive impact on the world. We are committed to welcoming and supporting many forms of diversity, including socioeconomic, racial, cultural, ethnic, sexual orientation, family structure, and geographic diversity.
Experiences with diverse perspectives, global learning, and community service are an integral part of an excellent education and foster identity development, empathy, and critical thinking in our boys. We are proud of the diversity in our community and are committed to expanding and enriching the diverse voices represented within and outside of the classroom. On these pages we hope to provide a window into where we are in our ongoing journey.
As a boys’ school, we engage in conversations around the definition of masculinity and aim to help our students explore all components of themselves and, in doing so, define what boyhood means to them. There are as many ways to be a boy as there are students at Town, and each boy helps to make the tapestry of our community rich and diverse. The important work of building identity begins in kindergarten, creating a foundation for identifying and regulating emotions, teaching how to read social cues, and allowing space for self-reflection. Through read-alouds, activities, and projects, students explore elements of themselves that make them unique. In the fall, kindergarteners are guided on a identity project encouraging them to think about how they see themselves, beginning with looking at themselves in the mirror and mixing paint to create their skin colors. Identity work continues throughout the Town School education across many subject areas, evolving to address the complexity of challenging and deconstructing stereotypes and questioning societal norms around masculinity. As a part of the 6th grade Unheard Voices unit, boys read stories about groups whose perspectives are normally left untold, including people of color, differently-abled people, women, and other historically oppressed groups. They then design a graphic story centered around an "ism" of their choice in the style of Art Spiegelman's acclaimed Maus.
Town seeks to help boys fulfill their greatest potential while also developing strong moral courage and empathy in students. Across each grade level, Town helps boys deliberately and thoughtfully look outside of themselves through curricular experiences into which fostering empathy is seamlessly interwoven. Town’s Lower School Counselor teaches weekly interactive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons involving discussions, role-playing, and experiential activities to each Lower School section. In 5th grade STEM, students use the design-engineering process to build a functional replacement of the human hand, employing empathy by learning about animals and humans whose functionality is impaired when an organ fails. Seventh grade students undertake a unit on immigration that is designed to get boys reading, speaking, and thinking about immigration and navigating multiple cultural worlds. The unit spans policy debates to the way our vocabulary matters, and concludes with the boys learning the stories of New Americans (defined by the teachers as those who are first generation Americans) they know personally and sharing these stories through an interview and a profile feature. This unit helps students understand the importance of the words we choose and gain a new perspective on life in America and beyond its borders.
Exposure to diverse perspectives encourages Town boys to develop strong critical thinking skills. In 4th grade Social Studies, students perform a critical thinking exercise designed at understanding multiple perspectives. In a mock trial examining the many factors that led to the enslavement and death of millions of Taíno peoples and Native Americans, boys are divided into groups and craft text-supported arguments to present to a jury of their classmates. They also look outside of their assigned roles and reflect on their own opinions in a written piece. The unit concludes with the boys imagining what a peaceful meeting might have looked like between people from two different worlds, which dynamics would have had to be different for this outcome to be realized, and what else we might need to know about how systems affect attitudes and behaviors. In U.S. History, 8th graders investigate the complex array of sociopolitical influences that impact who holds power in the United States and whose stories prevail in history narratives. Students reconstruct the geographical advantages and unique religious and political ideas that led Europeans to colonize multiple continents. Their first project in the course is to research and inhabit the perspective of a particular cultural group from the multitude of Native American, European, Asian, and African identities that directly contribute to American society.
Service learning is an integral part of a Town School education, continuing the work on empathy and moral courage that takes place inside and outside of the classroom. Each spring, Town students across all grade levels participate in a Week of Service that expands boys’ perspectives on what service and leadership mean. Town boys recognize that engaging in service benefits not only their communities, but also themselves. Reflecting on the 2018 Day of Service, one 6th grader noted, “Service is tied to leadership because you need to be positive, respectful, and helpful in both.” Seventh and 8th graders also participate in four half-days of service throughout the school year, each tied to various elements of their curriculum. Service is built into the Town curriculum in additional ways, including the required 7th grade class in which students partner with kindergarteners at the nearby Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School, working with them on their reading skills and playing together during recess. Through the Families Program, in which all students, faculty, and staff participate, family groups engage in service learning throughout the year, making lunches for Glide Memorial Church and cleaning up the neighborhood.
Through global experiences and perspectives, Town boys learn about their own identities in a broader context, the importance of belonging and including others, and the value of acting as allies and engaged global citizens. Town participates in an educator exchange with Teach with Africa, and in spring 2018 welcomed Chumile Mgwali, an intern teacher at LEAP Science and Maths School in South Africa, for a month-long residency. In the past eight years, members of the Town faculty have traveled to Peru, Costa Rica, Belize, South Africa, and Tanzania to participate in professional development experiences. In Town’s decade-long partnership with the World Leadership School, teachers have engaged in a range of global professional development experiences, most recently in Peru, where Lower School teachers Rachel Hollister and Caitlin Shapiro stayed with local families, met with global educators, and led educational experiences with Peruvian students. They gained concrete ideas for project-based learning units that they then implemented in their classrooms. Our global education program is woven into the curriculum, including in the 1st grade Kenya unit, when students study about water, learning about what life is like for populations who don’t have a reliable or easily accessible clean water supply in countries affected by drought or lacking infrastructure. With their 5th grade buddies, they engage in a simulated water walk in the neighborhood in an effort to understand the challenges of having to carry water over a long distance. In a semester-long 6th grade project, students learn the finances of a small business as they create their own “companies” to help fund micro-loans for individuals supported by Kiva.org. Town’s librarians and counselors have created a reading list to help students of all ages cultivate diverse perspectives. Within the Bay Area, we celebrate geographic diversity: we offer transportation to school via a contracted bus that picks up at the Highways 101/280 interchange and makes several stops on the way to school.
Town works to make its educational and extra-curricular programs available to a range of families. Tuition assistance grants cover tuition, after school programs, educational support and other school-related expenses. Tuition assistance funds are also used to ensure that every family has equal access to all Town School activities including athletics, special events, and parent programs. We are intentional about hosting a range of parent education and community events on a variety of days and times. Town also works closely with families who do not qualify for Tuition Assistance to help determine the payment plan that best suits that family’s needs. Please visit our Tuition Assistance page to learn more about affording Town School.
Town partners with People of Color in Independent Schools (POCIS), Schools, Mentoring, and Resource Team, Inc. (SMART), and Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (S.E.E.D). Town School engages with diversity and inclusion at the student, faculty, parent, and Board of Trustees levels, guided by Lorri Hamilton Durbin, Head of School, and Flora Mugambi-Mutunga, Director of Community Building and Inclusion. Below is a list of many resources and initiatives that are available to the Town community.
Student affinity groups include:
Town School’s parent committee on Community-Building and Inclusion has engaged with this work through book clubs, dinners, discussions, and more. Recent topics have included “Deepening Our Understanding of How Identity is Shaped: Individual Stories and Perspectives,” “Diversity of Thought and Perspective: More than One Way,” and a dinner with prospective families of color. A subcommittee focuses on developing cultural competencies. Parent and faculty affinity groups include:
LGBTQ+ Families and Faculty/Staff
Asian American Families and Faculty/Staff
South Asian Families and Faculty/Staff
African American/Black Families and Faculty/Staff
Hispanic/Latinx Families and Faculty/Staf
Town’s faculty propels this work forward in numerous ways, including through professional development, conferences, meetings, discussions, and recommended readings. During the 2018 opening faculty meetings, Dr. Derrick Gay returned to Town to lead his second diversity and inclusion workshop. Recent conferences attended by members of the Town School faculty and administration include the NAIS People of Color Conference and the White Privilege Conference. Faculty affinity groups include Employees of Color and LGBTQ+ Employees.
A dedicated Board committee guides and stewards Town’s work on diversity and inclusion. Members of this committee represent its interests on other Board committees including Finance. The Community Building and Inclusion Board Committee also is charged with providing ongoing education to Board members in order to sustain and mirror the learning journey of the school as a whole. The Board also monitors and measures our success at building an inclusive and equitable community through data collection and surveys.
We remain humbly aware that our work around diversity and inclusion is ongoing and dynamic, and seek not only to expand our efforts in these areas but also to deepen our understanding of our journey as it progresses. We are eager to hear from you about any questions or comments you may have on diversity and inclusion at Town. If you are a prospective Town family who would like to speak with a current Town family about their experience with diversity and inclusion initiatives, please contact Flora Mugambi-Mutunga. We look forward to meeting you soon.