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.
The following individuals will be speaking at the 2020 P2P Summit:
Britt is a Montessori trained guide, a mom, and one of the moderators of the Montessori Teachers Facebook group. She is also a nationally recognized anti-bias teacher-educator who works with schools around the country. She shows up daily on Instagram with advice, inspiration, and strategies for teachers and parents who want to improve. Britt is one of the speakers for the P2P Summit and will be presenting on, “Fairness, Equality and Justice: Using Anti-Bias Education to Prepare Our Environments”
- Watch this video: “Should I talk to my five year old about George Floyd?” and more in her Stories
- Support Britt on Patreon
- Follow on Instagram
D. Ann Williams, Ashley Speed, Andy Lulka
These three speakers will be presenting on understanding our identities, uncovering our unconscious biases, and creating intentionally intersectional spaces in our schools. If the words “white supremacy” make you feel defensive or dismissive, then this workshop will be a game changer for you. Push through the discomfort and make a commitment to listen for something you may not have been aware of before.
D. Ann Williams serves on the board of directors for Montessori for Social Justice and is the co-founder and former director of Zara Montessori in Oregon.
Ashley Speed is a 3-6 Montessori guide and mom and founder of Diamond Montessori. You will find a wealth of information about the history of racism (and much more) in her Instagram Stories. Ash is most famous for curating book lists featuring children of various backgrounds, cultures, and family structures.
Andy Lulka was a Montessori child and a Montessori teacher and is a Montessori mom. She is also the co-admin of the Montessori Teachers Facebook group. Many of you had the chance to hear her speak at her recent webinar with her mother, Regina Lulka, on how to talk to parents about discipline during the pandemic. A couple of years ago Andy and a team from the Teachers Facebook group compiled a fantastic list of resources for teachers on how to talk to children about race and racism. This google doc compiled by Andy Lulka, Tiffany Jewel, Sarah Bouwkamp, Tammy Oesting, and Jana Morgan Herman features 40+ resources including:
- Talking About Tragedy
- How to talk to Your Kids About Prejudice with the help of 12 of Our Favorite Books
- Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children See Race
- How to Stop the Racist in You
- Download the document here
I’m adding Colleen to the list because her specialty is working with children who have a history of trauma. Living with racism is a traumatic experience. Colleen will be presenting on “Trauma Informed Schools” at the P2P Summit. Colleen Wilkinson is an AMS-credentialed teacher (Early Childhood), consultant, and a Director at Montessori Country Day School.