Starting the conversation


Glasgow, who describes himself as a “personal and institutional life coach,” has worked with students, faculty and staff via Zoom this fall. photo courtesy of Rodney Glasgow

Ava Berger, Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Rodney Glasgow’s many roles make it difficult to identify him with a single title.

“I would say I am a personal and institutional life coach,” Glasgow said.

More specifically, he is head of the Glasgow Group and of middle school at St. Andrew’s Episcopal school, a speaker, facilitator and activist.

Glasgow spoke to students about establishing norms and creating safe spaces for discussions of race and implicit bias on Aug. 28 through Zoom.

He started the discussion with three Gestalt pictures, images that take a different shape and meaning depending on the way one looks at them. Glasgow explained humans similarly make an immediate judgment about others with a first glance.

“We have bias, we have stereotypes and we make quick decisions and only give them a second’s thought,” Glasgow said. “It’s the thing that has made us agile enough to survive all the different nuances of human existence. So, my work is about rewiring the brain itself, and that is hard.”

In addition, Glasgow explained where implicit bias comes from and the life-long fight a person must enter to counter these biases.

“Lots of people say there is no such thing as ‘Now I got it, and I’ll never do that thing again,’” Glasgow said. “You might not do that thing again, but you’ll do some biased thing again because that’s life and that’s humanity.”

However, Glasgow did not talk for the full two-hour seminar. Instead, he encouraged discussion.

“I try not to do [the seminar] where I’m the only person talking; it’s all conversational,” Glasgow said. “I go in saying, ‘We’re going to learn something together.’ I usually know a little bit about what we might learn, otherwise I have no idea where it’s going to go.” At one point, Glasgow asked for a brave student volunteer. Sophomore

Libby Warren raised her hand. “Though I had never met Dr. Glasgow prior to this Zoom, I immediately sensed his positivity and kindness as soon as he introduced himself,” Warren said. “He is the kind of light that attracts everyone in the room even via Zoom.”

In the two minutes that followed, Glasgow and Warren talked about the events of Warren’s morning. As Glasgow listened attentively and asked questions, Warren began talking about more than just her day-to-day life.

“While I love hanging out with friends, I normally do not talk about my personal life,” Warren said. “However, Dr. Glasgow made me feel extremely comfortable to the point where I literally told him my life
story. When I mentioned my dream of moving to Mexico, he engaged in my excitement and even offered accounts of his own experience there.”

Glasgow started the discussion with Warren to show the power of productive inquiry: how asking people questions about themselves and actually listening can go a long way.

“For me, listening to others is all an outgrowth of mindfulness, of that slowing down,” Glasgow said. “If you really slow down and you’re really present and there’s nothing else going on but the conversation you’re in, you will hear a lot.”

Glasgow also asked everybody on the Zoom to create their own “identity molecule.” He explained that everybody in the world is made up of eight cultural identifiers, but everyone differs in the way they arrange the importance of these identifiers to themselves. The identifiers are race, religion, sexual orientation, ability, family, socioeconomic status and age.

Diversity board chair senior Cece Tribolet noticed the significance of this exercise in displaying the importance of race in student’s lives.

“When we created and shared our ‘identity molecules,’ it was really interesting to see how large of a role different identifiers, specifically race, played in each person’s life,” Tribolet said. “It made it very obvious how crucial race is to many Hockaday students’ identities, which only furthered my understanding of how important it is that we have these race-related dialogues and workshops within our community.”

Glasgow plans to return to Hockaday at a pivotal time in politics: two weeks after the presidential election. He said he looks forward to returning to the positive energy he found at the school.

“At Hockaday, I got this deep conversation which is sadly rare right now in this country,” Glasgow said. “It was really a manifestation or I should say a ‘womanfestation’ of what I have been trying to do in these sessions.”