This year all programs have been working on increasing their understanding of ABAR education, engaging in transformative discussions, improving ABAR education opportunities in the classrooms, and striving to deepen a commitment to living out the fundamental tenets of Montessori education.
As part of our school’s ABAR (antibias/antiracist) initiative the infant and toddler teachers read and discussed the book : Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards with Catherine M. Goins.
From this reading and the related discussions, they came to see how even at a very young age, children are given subtle and explicit messaging around social norms and biases. They are interested in how to become more self-aware of these tendencies and how to better ensure an unbiased experience for our infants and toddlers. The teachers also seek to cultivate a global perspective into our curriculum areas. The overarching aim with this ongoing work is to emphasize our similarities as human beings despite our differences.
Work this year toward these efforts include:
- Incorporating artwork that showcases diverse celebrations occurring in the classrooms, such as introducing Diyas, Menorahs, and Chinese lanterns in our art work.
- Having classroom dolls that represent people from various parts of the world. They recently read a book called “Global Babies” and noticed the children really do appreciate having dolls they can ‘see themselves in’.
- Selecting books that reflect the different family structures present in our community.
- Being more mindful of their own subjective influence on the environment and the children.
- Being sure to use language that is affirming and inclusive.
- Working to break down unconscious bias and build up the habits of an ABAR individual.
As part of our school’s ABAR (antibias/antiracist) initiative, the Primary teachers also read, discussed and reflected on the book : Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards with Catherine M. Goins.
While the Montessori community’s ethos is deeply rooted in fostering a sense of community and respect for self, others, and the environment, we have reflected that there is additional work we must do to actively help raise adults who are not only good people but empowered change agents as well. From this reading and subsequent discussions, we have identified improvements we can make to our curriculum in order to ensure a diverse, equitable and inclusive community where all children see themselves represented and reflected in our classroom materials and conversations. We’ve received positive feedback for our efforts: one parent noted after coming into the classroom for a birthday celebration: “I appreciated seeing a brown baby as an option when he did his walk around the sun yesterday. My husband and I were actually surprised. It means a lot for his sense of self and overall inclusiveness.”
A few other examples this year that illustrate our anti-bias efforts include:
- Making sure classroom materials use images of people of different abilities, cultures, and family structures so each child can see themselves reflected in work on our shelves.
- Sharing facts about the myriad holidays observed by Primary families at circle and through artworks, books, and artifacts. In an effort to be inclusive and fair, we are making an effort to learn about these holidays rather than celebrate them, and we are also careful to provide the children with an understanding that cultural identity is about more than a single holiday.
- Updating our significant collection of books in order to meet our goal of nurturing our children’s understanding of inclusivity.
- Highlighting the important work and contributions of influential people from different cultures and races.
- Using our new lens to rethink how we word invitations, reference children, and speak about families.
Our insightful and dynamic discussions have helped us to realize that we see ourselves in relation to others and self, so we need to be conscious of which mirror and window we are looking through. Personal reflections have helped us to see the unconscious biases that exist in all of us; we will actively work to break down any biases through continued self-examination. We are looking forward to bringing this new insight and perspective to the children in our classroom, so that we can help to create good people and true agents of change.
As part of our Anti-Bias Anti-Racist work in Lower Elementary, teachers have covered a variety of topics including identity, social justice, equality vs equality, inclusion, stereotypes, disabilities/differences, and immigration. These lessons have included read alouds, conversations, class projects, and individual student work. Additionally, they have taken the time to celebrate and honor holidays from all cultures, as well as diversity heritage months. These months include Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Asian American Heritage Month (coming up in May). For these months, they have acknowledged the difficult past and those who bravely fought for justice, celebrated the individuals who are currently leading our country and world, and talked about how everyone can work to make the world a better place.
As we near the end of the school year, we wanted to take a moment to update you on some of the ways in which our middle school program is implementing anti-biased, anti-racist strategies. First and foremost, we recognize the importance of creating a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. We have taken steps to ensure that our classrooms are welcoming spaces where every student feels seen, heard, and valued. This includes implementing restorative justice practices, such as community circles and peer mediation, to promote respectful dialogue and conflict resolution.
In addition, we have integrated anti-bias and anti-racist education into our curriculum. We have used the book, “Start Here Start Now,” by Liz Kleinrock, to guide our lesson planning and have focused on teaching students about systemic oppression and the ways in which it affects individuals and communities. We have also incorporated diverse perspectives and voices into our readings and discussions to broaden our students’ understanding of the world and promote empathy and understanding.
Our recent Spain trip aligns with ABAR education by providing students with opportunities to engage with diverse perspectives and experiences. Through visits to cultural sites and engagement with local communities, students are exposed to the rich history and culture of Spain, which promotes empathy and understanding. Additionally, cross-cultural experiences can help students recognize their own biases and privileges and develop the skills necessary to become effective allies and advocates for social justice. By providing these experiences, we are fostering a more inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students.
Our work with HiTops also provides opportunities for our students to participate in facilitated discussions of topics such as gender and identity through their programming. This allows our students to engage with important social justice issues in a safe and supportive space, promoting empathy and understanding.
We have also taken steps to examine our own biases and privileges as educators and to engage in ongoing self-reflection and professional development. We recognize that creating an anti-biased, anti-racist learning environment is an ongoing process, and we are committed to continuing to learn and grow as educators.
We are proud of the progress we have made so far, but we also recognize that there is still work to be done. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with our students, families, and community partners to create a more just and equitable world for all.