We were honored this past Monday to welcome Alex Myers, renowned speaker, teacher and author, to The Greenwood School campus for a Professional Day symposium. Alex is a well respected alum and faculty member at Phillips Exeter Academy who teaches English, coaches, advises and is part of the residential life program. Alex has spent the last twenty-three years educating himself and others on the issues of gender identity, specifically that of being a transgender adult.
Alex’s own journey is notable, and he made a personal decision to openly share his experience with the Phillips Exeter school community as a student, at Harvard where he graduated, and as an adult when he was hired as a faculty person. Alex is recognized as a champion of gender issues among the private school network and is the author of “Revolutionary,” a novel based on the true story about a woman who fought in the American Revolutionary War disguised as a man.
During the four-hour presentation among faculty and staff, which was broken into three segments, Alex focused on the history of gender and gender identity, followed by an open conversation on school culture and climate surrounding issues of gender, and ending with a series of scenarios that our faculty meandered through and shared responses in an open forum. The very nature of private schools has afforded the leaders of those institutions the opportunity to design professional development which will encourage communities to grow, broaden our scope of what we may currently see as the cultural norm and challenge the educators to engage in tough but powerful conversations.
The educational message delivered on Monday shattered stereotypes, created a necessary and often overlooked dialogue and yes, at times, made us question our own opinions on gender and gender identity. There was a collective agreement, among the adults, that while Alex’s presentation asked us to join him on a ‘road trip of gender understanding,' it also called us to task when reviewing and evaluating how Greenwood has addressed the issues of gender, gender stereotyping and sexuality among young people.
One of the major takeaways from Alex’s talk was that one of our greatest responsibilities as educators was the importance of student validation. We must remind ourselves that Greenwood’s population of young people ranges in age from 12 -18 and that the physical, mental and social-emotional changes and growth that occurs during those years is significant. We must honor, respect and provide the safest environment we can whether a student is entering our middle school and poised to graduate in June.
Alex ended his talk on Monday afternoon with this thought: “We all get to determine who we are and who you are can always change.” It is, therefore, our responsibility as their teachers and mentors to prepare students to be their very best and for our Greenwood students to always feel accepted and loved.