Equity and Inclusion at Corlears
The Corlears mission has always been centered on making a space for young children to learn and grow in terms of their compassion, imagination, critical thinking, and leadership. We approach all our work supporting this character growth through an understanding of the developmental needs of young children. As it relates to equity and inclusion, there are two critical foundations that young children need: positive self-identities, and an understanding of how to acknowledge and celebrate difference in an inclusive and equitable way.
As a school, we achieve these two foundational goals through active modeling as an institution. This means that we intentionally design all our community interactions to be as inclusive and equitable as possible, and we strive to create a community in which each member can see themselves represented and valued. This work translates to every aspect of our community life: how we design our admission process, the affinity spaces that we create, how we greet each other in the morning, what books are in our classroom libraries, and so on.
We also explicitly provide our students with the language and understanding to recognize and celebrate their own identity and the identity of others. We teach the children to see things from multiple perspectives and to consider the needs of others amongst their own. We provide structures that allow them to explore situations that are unfair, and provide them with the tools to have a point of view and take action to support fairness where they choose. When we say “Social Justice,” at Corlears, this is what we mean.
The Corlears Social Justice Initiative
Corlears began its social justice initiative in 2015, through a collaboration with a board of trustees task force, the “Partnership for Equity and Inclusion.” The goal of the initiative has been to examine all aspects of the school’s operations and its mission, through the lens of social justice, equity, and inclusion.
Since this initiative started, the faculty and staff have engaged in a tremendous amount of work in preparing for how to make social justice, as well as conversations about race and identity, a more organic and transparent part of the daily life and curriculum for all students.
Evolution of Social Justice, Equity, and Inclusion in the Corlears Educational Program
Our social justice program has evolved in a thoughtful way in the four years since its implementation. While our work in equity and inclusion crosses all social identifiers, in the first years of the initiative we have placed an emphasis on developing our understanding of race.
During our first year (2015-16) the Corlears faculty and staff focused on ourselves, on our own identities, and how our identity influences everything we do.
In our second year (2016-17), we focused on the students, making sure that representation, creating space for talking about identity, race, equity and inclusion as well as looking at resources and materials to support the work professionally, and for students, was undertaken.
During our third year (2017-18) we focused on beginning to document and solidify the aspects of work in the educational program that were taking shape, including social justice morning meetings in the 8/9s and 10s, the identity curriculum, fairness curriculum, and a common vocabulary that could be used across classrooms and age levels.
We’ve also supported a robust conversation around social justice, equity and inclusion with parents through a partnership with the parent association group, community forum, organizing around topics such as Talking About Race with Children, Raising Race Conscious Children, plus more.
During the 2018-19 school year we are continuing to build the presence of social justice, equity and inclusion in the educational program through a focus on identity and fairness. We continue to develop and support conversations about race through our social justice morning meetings, literature based inquiry and art explorations. Our work to partner with and support parents is also ongoing.
How Social Justice, Equity and Inclusion Live in the Corlears Educational Program
The social justice themes and curriculum at Corlears have always been a significant piece of the educational experience in all of the classrooms, and, as with all subject areas at Corlears, the teaching has been developed to match the developmental readiness of the students at that age.
As the children move along, the concepts and conversations around these topics grow in complexity as well. Some of the themes overlap in some ways, to allow more time and opportunity for children to build a more robust context of understanding.
Of course, as children get older, their ability to notice, question, and understand aspects related to identity, race, equity, and inclusion deepens and becomes more complex. As they move through these developmental stages, the inquiries and explorations connected to social justice grow too.
Faculty and Staff Training in Social Justice, Race, Equity and Inclusion
The faculty and staff at Corlears have engaged in a multitude of professional development, both internally and with outside experts, to help guide and support this work over the last three years. We do not see this work as a trend; rather, we see it as an imperative.
Every faculty member at Corlears is required to participate in the Center for Racial Justice in Education’s Talking about Race in the Classroom training.
In addition, faculty and staff are also encouraged to attend additional trainings such as Disrupting Racism, Raising Race Conscious Children, the NAIS People of Color Conference, CARLE Institute, and the NYSAIS Diversity Conference.
Corlears has also served as a host for the White Anti Racist Educators (WARE) group. Additionally, affinity groups are offered to both faculty of color and white faculty as a way to increase and deepen dialogue around race at Corlears.
Corlears Social Justice, Equity and Inclusion by Age Level
Resources for Parents
Ongoing (monthly at Center for Racial Justice): Talking About Race for Parents
Children Are Not Color Blind: How Young Children Learn Race, Erin N. Winkler, Ph.D.
Racial Identity Development, Beverly Daniel Tatum
Transgender Children and Youth: Understanding the Basics, Human Rights Campaign
Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising healthy gender nonconforming children. Book by Diane Ehrensaft
Those Shoes. Book by Maribeth Boelts
Is There Really Human Race? Book by Jamie Lee Curtis
Partnership for Equity and Inclusion
The Partnership for Equity and Inclusion (PEI) is a board of trustees task force that evolved from the board’s Diversity Committee. The Diversity Committee was formed in 2006 as part of a response to a diversity audit conducted that year for Corlears by Orpheus Crutchfield, at StratéGenius. The original Diversity Committee began establishing spaces for community dialogue and support for parents around issues of equity and inclusion and created the school’s Diversity Statement (formally adopted in 2009).
The committee became a Task Force in 2015 to allow a more dynamic membership that includes non-trustee parents and staff members. The committee is a collaborative group consisting of administration, parents, board members, and faculty. In 2015, PEI established the goal of developing a larger, school wide social justice initiative.
Over the course of several years, PEI has served as a resource and strategic body to support the ongoing educational program work, as well as the parent conversation. Most recently, PEI hosted a very special event, 50 Years of Social Justice at Corlears School. An amazing cross-section of families, students, and teachers from every decade of the school’s history shared powerful stories about the on-going and developing efforts with the work around social justice, identity, and race at Corlears.
CORLEARS COMMUNITY FORUM
The Corlears Community Forum is a collaboration between parents, faculty, and staff to use a social justice lens to examine common parenting questions and create opportunities for parents to learn more about how to raise their children to be conscious and caring adults.
PARENTS OF STUDENTS OF COLOR (POSOC)
POSOC is an affinity space created for parents of students of color at Corlears. It was originally introduced by the school’s administration as part of the admission process to connect prospective parents with current parents of students of color. Now in its third year, POSOC is run by parents as a Parents Association committee, organizing events to build community and provide an affinity space for POSOC families.