Dear Embracing Equity Community,
You’ve been wonderful to support Embracing Equity through our growth adventures. Thank you for being part of Embracing Equity; I consider you a valued stakeholder as one of our first members. I’d like to share some updates on where we’re headed as well as invite you to continue with us on this ongoing learning. At this juncture, I am reflecting on the history of the work in our early stage of development and the exciting expansion as we grow our impact in embracing social change.
As a Montessori teacher, I have always believed that the core of my teaching practice is embracing equity. What does it mean to embrace equity? How do we dismantle systemic oppression when we have been acculturated to fear talking about race and racism? What does it mean to embrace your own identity and empathize with others?
Throughout my life as the first American in my family, and during my Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Secondary I, and Secondary II Montessori teacher education programs, I have been discouraged from talking about the systemic racism that plagues education and society at large. This discomfort and the taboo around talking about important issues that matter most effectively upholds white supremacy. That’s why I invited others, from the Wildflower Montessori Schools network as well as in my one of my graduate courses at Harvard, to join me in what Dr. Montessori calls “the preparation of self” in the context of today’s racially unjust and segregated communities.
I wanted to create an accessible platform for Montessori teachers at any stage of their teaching practice to engage in meaningful racial and ethnic identity development and active resistance to systemic oppression. I shared this project on a discussion board — curious to see if anyone else would be interested in working on creating spaces for educators to learn and grow together in their anti-racist teaching identity. Thankfully, the three people who responded to my call — Megan Satterthwaite, Rashaida Melvin, and Michael Blauw — happened to be some of the most passionate and talented teachers I have ever known. Together, we designed the curriculum and cohort-based experience, submitted it for the course as TransformEd, gained insightful feedback, and eventually evolved the work into what is now Embracing Identity.
This was a project that started long before the course and I planned to do whatever necessary for it be shared in the world. As part of my work in building capacity for equitable conversations and practices within Wildflower, I wanted to invite Wildflower teacher-leaders to join — and I knew that based on best practices for consciousness raising, this work would be ideally situated in intentionally racially diverse cohorts. As such, I proposed that the Wildflower Foundation sponsor a pilot of Embracing Identity — open to everyone for free — to share this learning opportunity and develop our acumen around issues of racial identity and justice both as a Wildflower network and as a larger Montessori community.
With Wildflower’s sponsorship I was able to share the pilot in July 2017. By August 15th, we were overwhelmed with interest from over 200 participants. After sharing the pre-survey with everyone, we narrowed down the group to 80 people who were committed for the full five sessions of the Embracing Identity cohort-based online program and ran the pilot with 8 groups.
Megan, Rashaida, Michael, and I learned a lot from that pilot and applied that learning in the next iteration as well as in the first facilitation training we hosted with 8 new facilitators.
Since then, we have been running the cohort-based online programs on an ongoing basis to meet the steady stream of demand, and I have been working to create deep partnerships with Montessori training centers to integrate this “preparation of self” within their training programs. Still living in the Wildflower ecosystem, I have been actively working on becoming an independent organization focused on: 1) contributing meaningful learning spaces for people to engage in resisting white supremacy culture and embracing equity; 2) shaping high-quality Montessori teacher preparation programs nationally; 3) empowering emerging Montessori teachers of color as leaders in the field.
Currently, Megan Satterthwaite, Malaika Hankins, and Andrew Greenia, are designing the curriculum for Embracing Disruption for a pilot launch in January 2019. Please join our mailing list "Embracing Community" to stay up-to-date!
In addition to this new program, I am fundraising and considering different scenarios, including hiring fixed-term consultants or staff to help us with (a) a strategic planning process, (b) an effective fundraising strategy and plan, and (c) the right staffing model, all of which will make us a healthier and more sustainable organization.
Thank you for your support and your commitment to justice.