A-S Staff Member and Alumnus Jaison Spain Speaks to Students about Diversity and Leads Them in “Step Across the Line” Activity
Jaison Spain has held many roles at Allen-Stevenson over the years: General Manager of Performance Spaces; Coach; and, his first role at Allen-Stevenson, Alumnus of the Class of 1997. It was this inaugural role of A-S Boy about which Mr. Spain spoke to our boys.
Mr. Spain joined Allen-Stevenson in the Fourth Grade and, at the time, was the only boy of color in his class. He immediately fell in love with Allen-Stevenson and the rich diversity of subjects and academic opportunities but was aware of how he stood apart from his classmates. Having allies at Allen-Stevenson allowed him to thrive and alleviated the pressure and vulnerability that comes with standing out from the crowd.
To drive this point home, Mr. Spain led our Middle Schoolers in a “Step Across the Line” activity. Mr. Spain lined the boys up and asked them to step forward across a line on the floor if they identified with a particular identity, including: a person of color; a boy; someone with an accent; religious. After each prompt, boys looked around the room and considered how many different identities make up our community.
Afterward, the boys split into smaller groups and went to separate locations where they continued the activity and discussed how it made them feel to be asked to stand apart from the group. When asked if they were nervous to step forwards, one boy raised his hand and said, “I felt nervous because there were so many people watching me and I was worried someone would laugh at me.”
When asked what they thought Mr. Spain might have felt like as one of two black students in Upper School Chorus at that time, the boys came up with poignant words like “scared,” “different,” “alone,” and “pressured.” This was followed up by a discussion on takeaways from the activity about how the boys can work to ensure our classrooms and school are welcoming and supportive of all students.
Mr. Spain reflected on the impact that this exercise has had: “This was an important lesson in intent versus impact for our boys. They’re more thoughtful now in both what they say and how they react to what others say. They’re considering the impact of their words on others, speaking up more, and feeling empowered to be better allies.”