Breakthrough Montessori is an intentionally diverse school. This intentionality was written into the charter, as the school creators believed then what studies have consistently shown- in diverse environments children can notice, embrace, and learn from their differences instead of falling prey to biases based on stereotypes. It is important to note that diversity, without a concerted effort to ensure equity and inclusion, can be divisive rather than inclusive. It is up to us, as parents to ensure we have conversations with our children to check in with how they feel about themselves, and their attitudes towards others they perceive as different. It is natural for our children to notice differences; we should not shy away from acknowledging them. Instead, it is the attitude they develop that is important. We want our children to notice and value differences, rather than notice them and feel shame or disgust. To support ourselves and our children, it is vital that as adults, we can knowledgeably and appropriately respond to their curiosities and check any misinformation or situations of prejudice that arise within our children.
Over the last year, parents have shared stories where their children were displeased over their physical appearance or exhibited bias against others. Unfortunately, some of these incidents have occurred even within the last month. Some children have come home with stories where classmates refused to play with them. Other stories included physical aggression and teasing against children with dark skin complexions. The Monthly Focus, Equity Series, Anti-Bias Policy, and Parent/Staff Reading Groups were all formed out of our efforts to alleviate these issues and provide information and resources to parents. We recognize that we do not have all the answers and continue to work as a community to learn from and with each other.
On April 18th, at our second parent/staff reading group, we reflected on and shared strategies used in our homes and classrooms to impart an anti-bias lens among our children. Our goal was to use the collective wisdom of our staff and parent community to create a toolkit of strategies for difficult conversations surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion with our children.
Here are a few of the strategies shared during the reading group:
- When questions about skin color, hair, and other aspects of physical differences arise, explain the science behind our physical differences.
- Introduce skin color books and have informal conversations with children about things they notice in the beginning of the year. Throughout the school year, there should be a focus on building up an understanding and appreciation of differences.
- Use the monthly themes as a guide to plan a varied amount of representation throughout the entire year, rather than introducing everything on the subject during the month and not talking about it at other times of the year.
- As parents, we should understand that it's okay and natural for your child to notice skin color and talk about race.
- Make it a point to attend different cultural events around the city (especially events planned or endorsed by individuals/groups who are part of that culture)
- When confronted with a difficult conversation. Be calm and patient. Ask open ended questions without judgement. When explaining skin color or other physical differences explain the science behind it. Let your child know that this is something we can casually talk about.
- Be aware of the fact this is an ongoing conversation. Racial attitudes are cultural, not isolated by schools or families. As our children learn more about the world around them, they can internalize attitudes. We need to check in to make sure they continue to have healthy attitudes about themselves and others.
If you are curious and want to learn more, attached are the two readings from the Parent/Staff Reading group that provide easy tips on this subject as we work with our children.
Additionally, click here to go review a draft of the school's anti bias policy.