I just got back from the Connecting Communities of Courage summit held at Facebook’s headquarters. I could play it cool and pretend that I wasn’t excited to be there, but I’d be lying. It was awesome just to be able to roam the floor and take in all the vibrant posters about empowerment that hung on the walls.
The Summit began with a panel discussion. Although they usually bore me to tears, this panel was different because of the passion behind each speaker’s ideas.
Steven Becton from Facing History and Ourselves reminded us how giving young people a sense of agency can make the difference in an impressionable student’s life. He urged us to push civic engagement to the foreground of education and watch how academic engagement flourishes. NY Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez shared her own experience of feeling lonely and uncomfortable when she stood up for what was right but knew it was worth it to create change.
But it was the students on the panel who stole the show. High-schooler Hana Mangat of Sikh Kid 2 Kid gave her personal testimony to the power of student-led school climate initiatives fueled by social media. Ben Gurewitz, a sophomore at UC Davis, prompted us to dump the assumption that all students learn in the same way and spoke about the importance of tailoring goals and success metrics to the individual student.
While this was an amazing event, there was one thing that needled me all day: Parents were largely missing from this conversation.
My husband and I know our kids better than anyone else on the planet. We represent their best interests in every aspect of life and our influence on our children is indelible. Yet we openly rely on the expertise of professionals to help guide our children to social, emotional, and academic success.
In the spirit of inclusion, it’s time for these same professionals to eagerly seek the expertise of parents. As we build safe and inclusive schools, we need parents to clarify needs, inform research, and reinforce best practices. Excluding parents from the school climate conversation is simply counterproductive to the mission.
Connecting Communities of Courage was an incredible success, and I was honored to participate. While we all left the summit committed to clearing pathways for student-led inclusion initiatives, I add to that a personal charge to invite a diverse group of parents to future school climate discussions.
As my favorite poster at the event read, “If no one offers you a seat at the table, pull up a folding chair!”
By Tearsa Coates, Ward 4 PAVE PLE Board Member