San Francisco Friends School strives to create a diverse community of learners and families, as well as faculty and staff. At their core, Quaker schools are built on the foundation that every child has an inner Light, meaning that each member’s unique voice contributes to and strengthens the overall community.
There is a direct connection between the diversity of our community and the excellence of our educational program. Students learn more from others when the “others” are different from themselves. This is why the school continues to build the overall diversity of our community with increasing success, looking at a variety of factors including family structure, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation, professional affinities, backgrounds, physical abilities, learning profiles, geography, and socio-economic diversity, to name a few.
From the classroom to the Meeting Room, from the Mission to Managua, our communities are varied, inclusive, and diverse. Teachers work hard both in and out of class to ensure all voices and perspectives are heard and celebrated. The result is a vibrant, challenging, and diverse community where all feel stretched, nourished, and engaged. We continuously reflect upon what it means to be a diverse, engaged “community of learners.” As we are keenly aware of the complexities and sensitivities within every community, and hope that our learning embraces these tensions. We strive to listen hard, lean in close, and learn from the dynamic, diverse communities within and beyond the school.
“The Poverty of Our Own Experience”
We contribute to and benefit from our communities. Communities shape us and we shape them. Quaker educator Eric Mayer reminds us that recognizing “the poverty of our own experience” can frame our approach to diversity, and the way we engage in service. At Friends, we embrace the truth that the process of building, nurturing, and sustaining community is ongoing, and requires thoughtful, tender attention, and deliberate, consistent engagement. Whether the E&I community is welcoming new families to affinity potlucks, 4th-Graders are reading in Spanish to their preschool buddies at Mission Head Start, or 8th-Graders meeting with state senators in Sacramento to discuss ways to support those experiencing homelessness, the thread that binds these experiences together is our philosophy and approach as a Quaker school. We seek to build understanding with humility and engage with others within or beyond our walls with open spirits and minds. As a result, we walk away with a deeper understanding of ourselves, a stronger connection to one another, and a life lived with meaning and purpose.
Gathering a Diversity of Voices
Another way in which we live our Quaker values is in gathering a dynamic community and a diversity of voices. We strive for a variety of learners—teachers, students and parents—willing to engage with complex ideas. Children and families at Friends come from different cultural groups, a wide spectrum of economic circumstances, and many different neighborhoods in San Francisco. Being a diverse community is not always easy, but offers us an opportunity—indeed an obligation—to learn from our differences, find common ground, solve problems together, check our assumptions and deepen our sensitivities to the feelings and experiences of others. Quite simply, a diverse community helps us form healthy relationships.
Since our founding in 2002, our school community has grown from a few dozen to over a thousand members. Throughout this remarkable growth, various school committees have borne responsibility for tending to the needs of children and their families. Some of these include:
- The Equity & Inclusion Committee (E&I) – Comprised of members from various constituencies of the school community, E&I meets monthly and steers a variety of projects and initiatives intended to enhance the school's diversity efforts. The committee strives to both build and sustain a school community that is inclusive, safe, and nurturing for all.
- E&I hosts Parent Affinity Potlucks; monthly discussions called “At The Table,” which bring together parents and school staff to wrestle with various diversity-related issues and challenges; and Community Film Nights, which provide a forum for thought-provoking discussions among parents, staff, and other community members.
- Middle School Affinity Groups – Include groups for students who identify or have family members who identify as people of color, white allies, LGBTQIA+, Jewish, having learning differences, and/or having family differences
- Parent Affinity Potlucks are held for families with members identifying as LGBTQIA+, monolingual, having learning differences, or adopted, to name a few
- E&I Steering Committee - a board level committee made up of parents, trustees, faculty, and administration