Reflecting on White Fragility – As a Montessorian

As Montessorians, it is now even more important for us to work on our own thoughts and perceptions of race and color as we strive for ABAR in our classrooms. We are so good at talking the talk, but need to also walk the walk. We always want to create the best environment for our children so that they can thrive. There’s so much that we still need to do, though, to update this curriculum and method that we love so much. So many suggested reading lists are out there. And if you follow me on Facebook or on Twitter, you will have seen dozens of books and articles that I have been sharing since last spring.

The book that tops all lists tends to be White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. My sister had recommended it to me a few years ago, but I just hadn’t gotten to it yet. And just before all of the protests and conversations following the death of George Floyd, I was starting to think more about it again and was putting pieces into place to further educate myself. I started sharing more about diversity. But then this really pushed me to work even harder and to share even more with everyone. A lot has been done, but we have so much more work to do.

I encourage you to also begin this journey, if you have not already, or to revisit it if you have taken a pause. Engage in meaningful conversations about it, whether with me online, with your own friends and family, with fellow faculty and staff, or with others in your community. Join the Montessori for Social Justice group on Facebook and take the time to really listen to the conversations in there and take advantage of the shared resources.

I finally managed to read White Fragility this past winter, and it really gave me a lot to think about. I reflected on a lot of personal situations, and I have been sharing those over at my blog Andi Explains It All. But I also had a lot of reflections on past experiences in the classroom and things that need to change in the future. Please join me and share your thoughts. I won’t always have all of the right answers and may still be misguided as I do the work and go on this journey. But that’s why I am sharing my process. We need to have these conversations. Thank you for joining me.

Purchase a copy of White Fragility and join in a conversation with me! You can purchase the same edition I have by clicking on the picture below. You get a good read and I get to earn a few pennies at no additional cost to you!

Reflections on Out of My Mind by Sharon S. Draper: Scaffolding for Success

In one of the early chapters of Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, Melody talks about her neighbor, Mrs. V., who was one of her caretakers. Mrs. V. as the person who first pushed Melody out of her comfort zone and built up many of her skills. She details one particular experience where Mrs. V. did what is known as scaffolding. The end goal of reaching her favorite toy was achieved through a series of much smaller steps, each one building on the previous one.

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Reflections on Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper: There’s more going on in there than you realize

As I made my way through the book Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, I was reminded of one of my boys on the autism spectrum. I will call him Patrick.

Patrick is at what some might call the more severe end of the spectrum. For some semblance of privacy, I will not detail his characteristics, even though I have given him a pseudonym.

But a particular one is that he is nonverbal. He can make some utterances and sing some. But mostly, he relied on communication charts and devices.

The one summer, I was at his house a couple of days a week tutoring his younger brother, Paul, primarily in reading. He had been in my class the previous school year. I usually would not see Patrick unless I stayed late chatting with the boys’ mother, who was quickly becoming a friend. But every time I saw him, I would warmly greet him, even though I knew I wasn’t going to get much of a response.

Then one week, Patrick was home because he did not have summer school. Mom was keeping an eye on Patrick, ready to distract him if needed. He was quietly sitting on the sofa on the other side of the room, so his mom decided to slip down to the basement to change over the laundry. He kept an eye on what we were doing, so I kept including him in our conversation, even though I knew he would not respond.

All of a sudden, Patrick got up and came to sit at the table with us. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, just kept including him in the conversation as I continued to work with his brother.

Mom came back upstairs with a full basket of laundry. When she saw Patrick sitting at the table with us, she promptly dropped the basket on the floor. Later conversation revealed that he had never initiated contact or interaction in such a way before. I was honored.

The interactions led me to working with both boys. Paul and I continued mostly academic things. Patrick and I worked on communication in a way, some skills around the house, and just interacting.

I would often watch him as he interacted with me or was stimming in one of his many ways, often wondering what was happening inside that head. He had very definite opinions on people and things. And while some people would only see a vacant stare, I often saw wheels turning. He just didn’t know how to express what was going on up there.

Reading this book made me think of Patrick. Even if he didn’t have a photographic memory like Melody, I still feel like he has a great deal more intelligence in there than he is able to express. And I am grateful that he has parents and teachers who seem to understand this and work to meet him on his level.

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Reflections on Out of My Mind: My Summer Lesson of Respect

So I read this middle grade/YA book about an 11-year-old girl named Melody who has a severe case of cerebral palsy. She basically cannot physically move on her own. And she cannot speak. But she is very intelligent, with a photogenic memory. The problem is most people do not know this, so they talk down to her. It reminds me of two special needs people I had in my life.

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