- Senior School
It often takes courage to have an honest conversation. No matter your age, talking about sensitive subjects is never easy, but at Collingwood, students are proving that Courageous Conversations are ones worth having.
Once a month on our Morven campus, students, faculty, and staff have the option to come together to speak freely about a relevant subject without fear of judgment, gossip, or criticism. Past issues have included women’s rights, transphobia, racism, and political conflicts. The meetings always begin with a reading of the group norms – reminders that the conversation isn’t supposed to be a debate, but a discussion where everyone feels heard and respected regardless of their view points.
“[The conversations] are a really good opportunity to hear opinions from people who don’t talk about serious topics a lot,” says Grade 11 student Finn S. “In school it can be hard to talk about global or systemic issues with your friends, just out of the blue, but Courageous Conversations lets you talk about things that don’t often get talked about,” he adds.
Courageous Conversations began in the fall of 2020, after the death of George Floyd and the marked uptick in anti-Asian racism. Over that summer, students began inquiring how Collingwood School could become a more equitable and respectful place for all students. We invited students and teachers to an open discussion, and out of that, Courageous Conversations were born.
“A few students felt like they wanted to continue the conversation and do more Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work. These students created the first position devoted to this work on the student executive,” says Charly Pimentel, the teacher sponsor for the Morven Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Student Committee.
Participants in a Courageous Conversation can expect to feel some discomfort. Ideas and beliefs are challenged or broadened and students learn to acknowledge a multitude of perspectives. These conversations are a unique way for students and adults to authentically engage with each other, to listen and learn from one other and to get a wider picture of complex issues. This allows the group to become more informed and empathetic to other points of view.
“It’s a huge part of the education of our students because it’s a way for them to practice having difficult conversations in the real world,” says Mr. Pimentel. “They will be more aware of how to engage with people with different views, something they are sure to encounter in post-secondary and their careers.”
Madelyn Y., a Grade 12 student who has been involved with the Committee for a few years, says: “These conversations develop our ability to listen and learn from diverse perspectives in a constructive and respectful manner—an important practice for students to be able to navigate difficult issues, particularly as future leaders, innovators, and change-makers.”
Mr. Pimental adds that Courageous Conversations are most effective when we have them with people who hold conflicting views. Equity, diversity, and inclusion work is not just the job of this Student Committee, but for every student on campus no matter what their focus is. This year, different groups will take turns hosting the monthly conversations to discuss a question that feels relevant to them. In October, the Gay-Straight Alliance hosted a discussion on why we still need a Women’s History Month. In November, the Thrive student committee hosted a conversation on gender and mental health.
“I went to my first Courageous Conversation a year ago and I just wish more people would join,” Finn says. “I think it’s good when a school is aware of how its students are thinking and feeling about issues, and provides an opportunity to talk about important topics.”
Madelyn agrees. “As a Collingwood student, I’ve always loved how Courageous Conversations foster a safe space for us to engage not only with other students but also with faculty and administrators in thoughtful discussions around challenging topics that we may not always have the courage to tackle on a daily basis.”
- Senior School