Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Read This Article: An Open Letter to Black Parents Whose Suns Have Been Pushed Out of Preschool

This article is such an important read for those of us working in schools. (Thank you to Roberto for sharing it!)
Looking back, you will mark this moment: when you wanted so much for him to be in that school, affiliated with Boston College and its reputation, that you took their side, and your child was wrong. Because you get star struck, a bit, thinking that these Ph.Ds in early childhood education who are supervising the teachers in its lab school will, surely, know what it means to “teach for social justice,” to have teachers who are “culturally competent.” Until, that is, you realize that they don’t.
If the school was a partner, there would be more children, faculty and staff that reflected the backgrounds of the children in the school, especially more children of African descent.

I work in a progressive school that strives to "teach for social justice" and hire teachers who are "culturally competent." And yet it can be so easy to continue to "do school" in a way that doesn't serve all children.
...who assured you that the tide was going to turn.
And it did, arriving in the form of a Black teacher, who, after spending one day with your sun summarized that “no one had taken the time to actually teach him what was expected,” and that she would.
I find that progressive schools can err too much on the side of "permissive" classroom management that doesn't set up all children to be successful. Reading this article has inspired me to read more about authoritative (versus permissive or authoritarian) parenting. And Parent-Child Interaction Therapy sounds amazing!

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Nora said...
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Nora said...

Growing up in a diverse (more than 50% students of color, more than 50% free/ reduced lunch) public Montessori school, I still remember how my 1-3 teacher took substantial time to do classroom-wide conflict resolution, where children settled their own conflicts (while sitting in the hallway) and taught a process for mediating large conflicts through whole class rock talks (these would be probably issues where a child might otherwise be suspended): these were rare. She also used a system of "warm fuzzy" notes for children to give affirmations to each other. Montessori classroom management has the potential to be egalitarian and transformative (without being permissive) and it takes substantial time on the part of the teacher. I ran into my former principal of the school about 5 years ago, and he said he has never had another principal of a public Montessori come to him for advice. But I remember him as someone who was particularly passionate about peace education. After that, I started daydreaming about how awesome it would be to interview seasoned public Montessori folk to track history of public Montessori ed, just as a resource (my field is anthro)

Sara E. Cotner said...

So interesting, Nora! Which school is it? Is the principal still there?

My friend does research about public Montessori. Here's some info about it

Nora said...

Thanks for that resource. My school was Congress Park Montessori in Grand Rapids MI. Montessori is no longer in the Congress Park building, but Montessori has expanded to 4 buildings in Grand Rapids public schools, with a 5th to open soon. I was a was a student in the 1980s, and the principal retired in the 90s (and the district replaced him with a principal with no Montessori training). My son will likely someday go to a public Montessori in Kalamazoo, MI called Northglade Montessori. As a side note, I also have memories of my 4th-6th (I only stayed until 5th) classroom, where the teacher was highly permissive (I remember one student bringing a screwdriver from home and opening up a classroom computer without permission, then sticking wires in an outlet creating a floor-wide power shortage). I stopped enjoying school. The issue of permissiveness has been on my mind as the parent of a young toddler. Implementing Montessori in the home has been an encouragement to set reasonable boundaries.

Sara E. Cotner said...

I'm very familiar with Northglade, Nora! The principal and I have crossed paths many times. She's awesome!

It's easy for teachers to err on the side of permissiveness because they are afraid that firmness hurts children. However, I have seen (over and over again!) that permissiveness can lead to unsafe and unkind environments which are WAY worse than firmness.

Nora said...

I loved the teacher I described above because she actually integrated discipline so well into the classroom environment/ routines that she rarely needed to be firm (but could be, when needed). Truly a Montessori master, at least in my memory. Good to hear you know the Northglade principal! One thing the author of the article you shared doesn't mention is how sometimes magnet schools in very poor areas become defacto neighborhood schools because parents outside the neighborhood stop selecting them. One other thought: I also see a parenting style which is a pendulum between permissive and authoritarian. Parents are permissive, then get so frustrated that they become harsh/ mean instead of firm. The reason I am attracted to Montessori at home is because (at best) it can help avoid this pendulum by giving me ideas for creating an environment and expectations that include boundaries and natural consequences. But, raising a child is SO challenging, even with good tools like Montessori.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Yes, I know exactly what you're talking about, Nora!

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