Dear Families and Friends of the Columbus Learning Cooperative,
Being involved in education in 2017 comes with a lot of hard questions. How do you create a society where people are able to solve their problems empathetically and nonviolently? What changes can we make in the world by starting in our own learning communities? How can we make education inclusive, and liberating for all students regardless of their individual identities and needs? I spoke with a student a few weeks ago who said she lays awake at night thinking about the state that the world is in. People often say that children are the future, but they are not just that. They are also the present.
What can we do to empower them to create a world, now and in the future, that is more equal, just, fair and free? What does it mean to be an educator in the times of Donald Trump? At the CLC, it means questioning the holidays that traditional school schedules accommodate, and sometimes celebrating ones that aren’t as recognized. Columbus Day is next month and we anticipate using it as an opportunity to talk about Indigenous Peoples' heritage. It means working through conflict empathetically, hearing the needs and feelings behind others' requests, and staying away from judgement.
It means teaching consent, first and foremost by allowing our learners to choose NOT to give it. Learning consent in intimate relationships starts with learning that your "no" will be respected. If a student says "no," to our help, then we respect that and will not use guilt or coercion to turn it into a yes. Developing engaged citizens means our members democratically participate in the workings of our coop during Town Hall Meetings. Learners hold elections, propose motions and use Robert's Rules of Order to discuss ideas and create change through their own power and collaboration. Each attendee to the meeting gets a vote- staff and members alike. Helping members understand their impact on the environment means asking how the CLC itself can be more sustainable. For example, we recently created a Worm Bin Committee to discuss the opportunity to compost organic food waste.
Social justice, consent, and the environment are things that our president cares nothing about. They are things that are deeply important to us, and those of us involved in education must teach their value. There is no such thing as an apolitical classroom. Still, we never seek to indoctrinate or inform based on our power as adults. We teach our learners to ask good questions, and through that self-directed questioning come closer to the truth. Most importantly, we teach them to never stop learning!
It is hard to wake up in a world every day where there is so much injustice and hate, but it is comforting for us to know that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by learners, families and community members who are willing to question the status quo. We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a lot of questions. The Columbus Learning Cooperative community invites you to live those questions with us.
Yours in Learning,
Kate Weigel, Multimedia Director (on behalf of)
Devin Fraze, Founder and Director
Kim Porter, Enrollment Coordinator
Marcelle Gilkerson, Mentor
Ulises Cruz, Teacher
Tommy Jones, Teacher
Cary Harris, Teacher
Grace Philips, Teacher
"[O]ne of the most vital ways we sustain ourselves is by building communities of resistance, places where we know we are not alone." -bell hooks