The Community Forum: Growing from Its Roots
Children at Corlears School are encouraged to investigate and question the world around them. Through their learning, difficult topics like gender stereotypes and racial identity are explored with the aid of books, projects and classroom discussions. While Corlears’ mission is the education of children, parents at Corlears are also taking part in their own learning experience. Outside of the classroom, parents are offered opportunities to explore complex issues in a space just for them -- the Community Forum.
Founded in 2008 by Corlears parents, the purpose of the Community Forum at the time of its inception was to create a space where parents could openly discuss issues related to diversity. Early Forum particpant and alumni parent, Sabrina Coughlin, recalls “the community forum started as a real grassroots efforts...some parents felt that there should be a forum for people to come together to share their thoughts and experiences around diversity. It was very informal in the beginning. Two or three parents organized monthly sessions, where anyone could come and talk about whatever was on their mind.” From there, the Community Forum began to evolve. Agendas were formed and the school counselors were brought into the fold as both a support and resource for families. In the many years of its existence, the Community Forum has continued to grow, and is an important staple of life at Corlears School.
Historically, the Community Forum has served as a space to explore a variety of complicated, nuanced topics. Since its first began, meetings have focused on a multitude of diverse issues including gender identity, bullying, gun violence and, just last year, a post-election debrief. Staying true to its roots, Community Forum continues to serve as an educational space for parents, and has never shied away from addressing issues that can be both difficult and emotional. It is because of this that the group continues to be an important part Corlears -- allowing for parents to become learners in their own right as they question, explore and attempt to understand the many societal issues that affect their families. While the Forum has taken different shape over the years, the same guiding principles upon which the Forum was founded remain the same, and parents continue to make these meetings a priority in their own lives, and in the lives of our school community.
This year, the Community Forum has been infused with new energy thanks to School Counselor, Silvia Pacio, and the group dedicated parents at the helm. In its current incarnation, the Forum continues to lend itself to community building -- serving as a place where parents can be vulnerable with one another as they share their concerns and experiences with fellow families. The first Community Forum of this school year will take place on Wednesday, December 6th. All parents are invited to take part in the first session of an ongoing discussion about race and identity, and ways to discuss these topics with young children. At the youngest ages, children are already noticing difference, and drawing conclusions from what they see and hear -- both in their own real-world interactions and in media they consume. The very purpose of the Community Forum is to create a community space for dialogue that can also provide parents with the resources, language and ultimately, the courage to begin to engage in these topics more explicitly with their children, and work to combat biases that are so prevalent in society. Corlears has always been a place that values difference, and addressing these issues continues to be a priority for this school community.
The Community Forum began thanks to a group of dedicated parents, and continues to thrive because of current families’ invaluable participation and contributions. It is the hope of the school that the Forum can continue to be both a space of a reflection, and a resource for the parents at Corlears. As Sabrina so eloquently put it, “the Forum gives us a place to learn about the issues, reflect on our own feelings and experiences...listen to and learn from the experiences and stories of others in our community, and with time, develop a comfort around the issues and some skills for speaking to our children about them….I felt it made me a better parent, [and] a better community member.”
In addition to the Community Forum on December 6th, Corlears is also hosting an evening workshop with Raising Race Conscious Children on the evening of December 7th. We suggest taking part in both the Community Forum as well as this evening event for a more in-depth conversation, and additional resources. Click the images below to learn more and register.