June 8, 2020
Dear AIMS Members,
This is an increasingly tense time as we navigate a turbulent world. Racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia, inequity, and violence continue to poison humanity while we navigate a pandemic. Our country is in deep pain and our children are watching closely. Many of our students, families, teachers, and staff are directly impacted by systemic racism and oppression in their daily lives. As Montessori schools founded on core values of human rights, AIMS must be part of the healing and address the urgent work at hand. As an organization and community, we must unite and double down on continued deep, personal, interpersonal, and organizational work in anti-racism and anti-oppression. We know dismantling institutionalized racism and complex structures of oppression require large-scale activism and just policies that support all people. We also know the importance of constructing a childhood that opens each heart and mind to love in order to create a peaceful, just future for all. Our schools help shape peaceful humans.
Prioritizing justice, racial literacy, and multicultural competency in our schools is critical in order to create change. Amongst schools, there is a broad range in the individual and organizational understanding of racial literacy, privilege, bias, and oppression. Many of our AIMS schools are already prioritizing this work. Some have grown through robust training such as ABAR, the National SEED Project to authentically integrate antiracism and anti-bias values into the curriculum, culture, and systems. AIMS would like to honor and share the work of one notable school at the forefront of equity work, The Montessori School of Englewood. This free charter school “offers an alternative curricular approach to serve the diverse ethnic, socioeconomic, language, and educational backgrounds of students...” They are also founding the Chicago Montessori Institute teacher education program, increasing accessibility to Montessori teacher training.
We know that parents and caregivers are our co-teachers now as many of us conduct remote learning. Below are some resources to support faculty and families in talking and learning with children about topics of anti-racism, racial justice, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the death of George Floyd and other black and brown people. If adults are unsure of where to begin when presenting hard conversations, consider introducing a resource geared for a slightly younger age group. Thus may help you gauge your children’s current understanding and questions. Then, go from there.
Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppression Resources:
Raising Race Conscious Children has resources and discussion examples that can be helpful when discussing race with children.
Teaching Tolerance- resources for families and educators including professional development webinars
For Early Childhood and Lower Elementary:
Video recording of a Children’s Book: The Day You Begin (Woodson) Its message of difference and inclusion is timely not only because of the protests gripping our nation but also because of nervousness many children may be feeling about moving on to new classrooms in the fall. Written for ages 4-8.
Video recording of a Children’s Book: Something Happened in our Town (Celano, Collins, Hazzard) addresses the problem of racial violence and systematic, structural racism more directly. Written for ages 4-8, but can easily age up.
Excerpt from Talking to young children about the Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement By Laleña Garcia
Although adults can obviously talk about any of the principles (and many of us already do) without mentioning the Movement for Black Lives, we can also include the movement as a group of people who want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, regardless of the color of their skin. We can say something along the lines of, "The Civil Rights Movement, with people we know about, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, worked to change laws that were unfair. The Black Lives Matter Movement is made up of people who want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, because, even though many of those laws were changed many years ago, some people are still not being treated fairly." Linking the principles of Black Lives Matter to the ideas we use in our classrooms on a regular basis helps children to understand the connections between justice and equity on a large scale to their own lives and individual actions.
Podcast: Talking about Race with Young Children from NPR & Sesame Street
For Upper Elementary & Middle School:
Being Antiracist, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, provides background, resources, and actionable steps.
For white families interested in taking action, 75 Things White People Can do for Racial Justice
Peace education is a core tenant of Montessori. We believe in the power of children and fostering compassionate, cooperative humanity. Now, we must rise to the challenges ahead. Faculty, families, and students can have these critical conversations — lives depend on it. Dr. Montessori wrote:“…the child is both a hope and a promise for mankind... If a person were to grow up with a healthy soul, enjoying the full development of a strong character and a clear intellect, they could not endure to uphold two kinds of justice—the one protecting life and the other destroying it. Nor would they consent to cultivate in their heart both love and hate….”(Montessori, Education and Peace). AIMS is committed to growing love and justice through personal change and community action. Our collective and focused energies must commit to ongoing and necessary action - let's work together to reshape and heal our world.
With love and peace,
The AIMS Board