“You are important; you are recognized; and we acknowledge that your experience may differ in some ways from your peers,” Aya Murata, Advisor to Asian and Asian-American students, writes to her students at Andover and at peer Independent Schools.
Murata’s article, “A Lasting Impact: Supporting Asian and Asian-American Students,” will be featured in a new collection of magazine articles published by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) entitled “The Inclusive School: A Selection of Writing on Diversity Issues in Independent Schools.”
“The Inclusive School,” published on February 29, is a compilation of articles written by educators at independent schools that address aspects and issues of diversity. Articles featured in the magazine were published in previous issues of the “Independent School Magazine,” published by NAIS.
Murata began working on her article in the summer of 2010. It was originally published in the “Independent School” Winter 2011 issue. NAIS magazine editor Michael Brosnan informed her in mid-January that her article would be re-published in the book.
In her article, Murata argues that Asians and Asian-Americans at independent schools are often overlooked. She says that “Asian-Americans have a markedly different experience” with race because of racial assumptions and other “limiting and damaging stereotypes.”
“The Asian and Asian-American populations in schools are often overlooked just because maybe they are, ‘doing well,’ according to the school’s particular rubric of grading or in some other areas. They have a very particular set of issues and challenges that may not be visible right on the surface, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.” said Murata.
One main trend that Murata noticed as Advisor to Asian and Asian-American students was that these students become frustrated with comments, questions and jabs about “not needing to work hard to succeed.” Such comments diminish the achievements of Asian and Asian-American students, according to Murata.
She writes that schools should recognize these students as individuals rather than a simple homogenous population.
Incorporating her experiences as Advisor to Asian and Asian-American Students, Murata proposed several steps that educators at independent schools could take in order to address problems and increase support for Asian and Asian-American students.
Murata suggested that Andover’s peer schools could benefit from the creation of an Advisor to Asian and Asian-American Students and cites the importance of having a direct support network for Asian and Asian-American students.
“Grappling to find a sense of identity, where do I fit in the world and what does it mean to be Asian—kids face these problems in their own way, and they should be able to find a mentor that can help them answer these questions,” said Murata.
She encouraged schools to hire more Asian and Asian-American faculty to serve as role models and mentors to students of the same ethnicities and said that resources should also be dedicated to programs and discussion forums for Asian and Asian-American.
Murata also suggested that schools evaluate guest speakers, school programs and curriculum to ensure that the experiences of Asians and Asian-Americans are represented and communicated to all students, specifically in studies of world history.
Murata said, “I love knowing that I can be a role model and a mentor to [Asian and Asian American] students during their experiences here. It’s a time of adolescence and it’s going to be hard anyway.”
While working on her article, Murata consulted her friend Jean Wu, Professor of American Studies at Tufts University. Wu has researched Asian and Asian-American issues in the United States extensively and worked with Murata via email.
Murata’s article, “A Lasting Impact: Supporting Asian and Asian-American Students,” is available on the NAIS website.