Reflecting on White Fragility as a Montessorian – Concluding Thoughts

I have always been dedicated to promoting diversity in the Montessori classroom. I thought I was doing a decent job at it. I know I have done more than many of my peers. But I also know it has not been enough.

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Reflecting on White Fragility as a Montessorian – Diversity in Schools Then and Now

One of the things that Robin Diangelo asks us to think about is our schooling. What kind of school did you attend? What was the racial makeup? What about your teachers? Were they male or female, Black or white?

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Dear Dad, thank you for my Montessori life.

Today marks 10 years since my father passed away. It doesn’t seem possible that it has been a full decade when so many memories of that difficult time feel as recent as last week. But that’s how time works.

Over the past several months, I have been doing a lot of introspection on the role that Montessori has played in my life, how it still pertains to my life, and how it can impact my future. My father had a large role in that. So today, I want to pay tribute to him for that.

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Reflecting on White Fragility as a Montessorian – Our Excuses

One of our struggles as educators is grappling with the messages we received in our trainings and realizing that what may sound innocent and wonderful is actually problematic and needs to change.

How many of these statements, or versions of these statements, have you made?

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Reflecting on White Fragility as a Montessorian: Black History Month

Every February, we eagerly celebrate Black History Month and tend to focus on the “firsts” – the first Black fill-in-the-blank. In White Fragility, Robin Diangelo uses Jackie Robinson as an example. We celebrate him as being the first Black man allowed to play major league baseball. A great achievement, right? But on page 26 of my paperback copy, she makes this eye-opening observation/statement:

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Reflecting on White Fragility – As a Montessorian: Learning From Past Mistakes

Reading through the introductory portions of White Fragility really sent my brain into overdrive. And this is only the appetizer to the real meat of the book. One particular incident really jumped out in my mind, a situation I didn’t handle as gracefully as I should have. And now I know better.

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Should we still be celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in school?

I’m sure there are dozens of opinions on this topic with as many hotly contested answers. I’ve evolved my opinions over time. I’m going to share my history and thoughts on this.

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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: 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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Reflections on Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper: My Kid With Cerebral Palsy

My friend’s daughter had the book Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper on her reading list. Out of curiosity, I borrowed it and was completely moved and immersed myself in memories. The story is told from the point of view of a girl named Melody who is an 11-year-old with severe cerebral palsy. She can barely move and cannot speak. Therefore, everyone assumes that she is profoundly mentally retarded, a word that she rightfully despises. So when she starts school, she is placed in a brightly colored room with a new teacher every year and a revolving door of assistants, where curriculum is often dumbed down.

It made me think of an experience I had during college. For one of my education classes, we had to spend time observing in classrooms. Because I took the Honors version, they decided we were going to visit alternative schools. I was already familiar with these programs because I had attended one of the Montessori schools and we did activities with one of the other alternative programs. Plus I was already employed at another Montessori school. So I was told that I could actually work with the kids instead of just observing.

My assignment? A young boy about seven years old who had CP. Why? “He needs a lot of extra help, and I just don’t have time for him.”

What?

I sat down with this delightful young man at his table and we started chatting. He broke my heart when he said, “You know, I’m not dumb. It just takes me a little longer to do things.”

I was so angry with that teacher. How dare she make this child feel this way? I don’t know that she ever said anything directly to him. At least, I hope she never did. But that line, “Actions speak louder than words” definitely rang true for this young boy. And it was not okay.

I often think of him and wonder how he is doing ow. He would be in his early 30s. I hope that he found teachers who understood him and could work with him where he was at. I hope he never felt shamed because he was slower. The realistic part of me knows that is highly unlikely. But I like to think it happened.

I can still picture him in my head, though his name now escapes me. But his impact on me and my teaching remains. I never talked down to kids with impairments. I acknowledged that there was more going on in there than we realized. And it made me a better educator.

I hope you can do the same.

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