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 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.

Get your own copy of Out of My Mind and let me know what you think! You can get it through my affiliate link below if you click on the picture. You’ll get a great read and I’ll 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.”


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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Enter to @marksvilleandme National Geographic Easter Basket Prize #Giveaway Ends 3/30

Whether or not you celebrate Easter in your house, you’ll want to get your hands on these National Geographic books for your kids. They’re some of my favorites and were always a hit in my classroom! Check them out! And best of luck entering the giveaway.

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Reflections on Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper: An Introduction

I’m starting up a sort of Thoughtful Thursday series here, of reflections I had after reading a book that my friend’s daughter had to read over the summer.

The book Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is the story of a young girl named Melody who has cerebral palsy. She basically cannot move and she cannot speak. So people just assume that she is profoundly  mentally retarded. In fact, the opposite is true. Her brain works quite well otherwise, including a photographic memory, and she possesses an intelligence that only she really knows she has.

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