Sometimes being an educator takes courage. In order to show up as the guides our children need us to be, we have to find the strength to look at the things about ourselves and our environments that make us uncomfortable. The things that make us question what we’ve always taken for granted. The things that challenge our world view.
This is what Montessori teachers do. We do the hard work of preparing ourselves so we can observe and respond with clarity and empathy. Not only do we not turn away when we begin to realize that there is more within us that needs to be examined, we move towards it, purposefully and with courage.
The topics of race and racism are calling us strongly today. What is racism? Who is affected by it? What causes it? What role do I play in all of this? What unexamined beliefs do I hold about the children and families I serve? What unexamined beliefs do I hold about myself? How do my beliefs inform my actions? What are the short and long term consequences of my intended and unintended actions? As educators we must be willing to engage with these questions.
If you are of the belief that “children don’t see color” or “we’re past racism; we’re all equal and all lives matter” then you may feel that you’ve already done the work and are ready to move on. However, if you pause and observe, you will see that something is amiss. Instead of dismissing the disorder you see as a few bad actors messing it up for everyone, I encourage you to pause a little longer, observe a little more closely, and find the courage to listen for the message you may have missed.
On the other hand if you feel overwhelmed by the weight of racism in our communities, you feel helpless and don’t know how to support the people who are suffering, I also encourage you to pause and observe and listen. A lot of work is being done and there is guidance available. Make a commitment to show up and learn and actively change how you do things.
Listed below are some resources that will help you find more clarity about racism and children and suggestions for how to talk to children about current events.
Black Lives Matter at School
If you click nothing else in this email, click this one! On this page you will find a link to a Google Drive folder with teaching resources for every grade level to help you teach about race/racism in a developmentally appropriate way. Includes book lists, lesson plans, powerpoint workshops, coloring books, child-appropriate definitions and a lot more.
Talking to Kids About Racism
Video: Dr. Kira Banks hosts a panel of parents and experts who discuss how they are talking to their children about current events.
Statement from Montessori for Social Justice
The statement from MSJ regarding the state of racism within the US and the Montessori community. Also includes a list of Black Montessorians whose contributions you should be aware of. Please make a point to follow their work and support whenever possible. Refer to this list when you are planning your next in-service speaker or consultant. Also seek out other Montessorians of color to follow and work with.
Scaffolding Anti-Racism Resources
This is a very useful document that breaks down the different stages of understanding racism and how you can support your colleagues in moving through the different stages. If you know people who make the following statements, “I don’t see color,” “Talking about race brings disunity,” or who hold the belief that racism is caused by talking about race or that you aren’t racist if you don’t purposely or consciously act in racist ways, this document will give you a place to start. This is also helpful if you are finding yourself stuck in feelings of shame/guilt or overwhelm. Note: This document is getting a lot of traffic so if it’s not available when you click on the link, please try again later.
Anti Bias Resources from NAEYC
Includes articles and books for improving practice in early childhood environments.
- Conversations that Matter: Talking with Children About Big World Issues
- Moving Beyond Anti-Bias Activities: Supporting the Development of Anti-Bias Practices
- Making Connections. Embracing Equity: Helping All Children Reach Their Full Potential
- Building Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs: The Role of the Leader
Ally is a Verb: An Offering
This post by Kelly from Wings, Worms and Wonder is a good primer for those of you who are beginning this journey of anti-racism and want to learn more about how to be an ally without adding to the burden of the Black community.