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DEI Matters at MAC: March 2024 Update

DEI Matters at MAC: March 2024 Update
Montessori Academy of Colorado

Our staff engaged in continued professional learning around anti-bias pedagogies and practice in February. We hosted Dr. Vanessa Santiago Schwarz at our most recent in-service on February 16, 2024 during which she guided our staff in understanding the anti-bias education domains focused on diversity and justice.

The domain centered on diversity is broadly meant to foster an ease with human differences among students. It is meant to guide students to think and have language for the ways that humans are the same and how they differ, while helping develop a sense of respect and fairness toward all people. It is within this domain of diversity that children better understand differences and use accurate and asset-based language to describe them. Teachers promote comfort and empathy among students, replacing judgment with curiosity to guide children toward a greater understanding and appreciation of the many dimensions of human diversity. Providing a wide range of literature in the classroom is one way to expose students to people that are different from them and have rich conversations that can guide student understanding. Staff explored considerations that are helpful to take into account when selecting diverse fiction and non-fiction texts. For fictional materials, it is important to think carefully about the characters in the materials taking into account whether they represent a variety of identities and whether they are portrayed positively or negatively. In addition, it is important to consider whether the material’s themes reflect the linguistic, social, cultural and historical reality of the cultures represented in and beyond the classroom. For non-fiction texts, considering diverse perspectives on historical events, concepts and places is important, as well as thinking about whether the authors of materials are members of the cultural and/or linguistic groups about which they are writing. For both fiction and non-fiction materials, careful consideration of the stories, characters/people, themes, settings, illustrations, languages and authors can go a long way toward promoting a balanced understanding of diversity among students. Staff discussed how this consideration set also extends to music, art, etc. that are represented in the classroom. For our Nido students who are at the very beginning of understanding the world, this might mean that the art on the walls is intentionally examined through this lens to begin this diverse portrayal of the world.

Staff delved into the anti-bias education goal centered on justice, which is about building students’ inherent capacities for empathy and fairness while thinking critically about what is happening in the world around them. The concept of criticality lives within this domain, which helps to pave the way for students learning to take action to make unfair things fair. Teachers can discuss problems that allow children to explore concepts of justice. For example, on a Going Out, students might discuss whether the bumpy sidewalks provide equal access to people with diverse abilities, or the reasons why certain groups of people are unhoused. Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, Associate professor of language and literacy at Georgia State University and author of, “Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy”, defines this concept, “Criticality is the capacity to read, write, and think in ways of understanding power, privilege, social justice, and oppression, particularly for populations who have been historically marginalized in the world. When youth have criticality, they are able to see, name, and interrogate the world not only to make sense of injustice but also to work toward social transformation. Thus, students need spaces to name and critique injustice and ultimately have the agency to build a better world for all.” Staff reflected on this concept in small groups and shared ideas to help build a greater understanding by exploring the question, “How might you address criticality within your role? Assistant Teacher, Dillon Callaghan, shared his deep reflection on this question with staff, “I found myself thinking a lot about our biases as adults and the biases we reflect on our children, who are about as unbiased as they come. How can we critically analyze this bias objectively and use it to our advantage in the classroom, and in the world itself? How do we effectively teach children that bias and judgment are natural ways our brains learn to access certain situations, cope with things unfamiliar to us, and perceive common differences in society? Can we instill a sense of commonality between cultures, races, and social norms that the children we teach can carry out into the world as they grow and evolve as human beings?” Assistant Teacher, Jamie Gorman, included her reflection as well, by asking the clarifying question, "How do we control our reactions to the things we can't control?" By asking these important questions around themes of anti-bias education, our staff is actively working toward providing tools that our students can use to navigate and make a difference in our world.

We will be hosting an anti-bias parent education event on April 16, 2024; more details will be shared in the coming weeks. We look forward to sharing our next community update in April!

  • DEI
  • Schoolwide