I’m thrilled to introduce you to Razan Abdin-Adnani, the newest guest writer on the Bee Line blog! Razan composed a gorgeous three part series for the blog on building inclusive school environments. This is the second installment. See the first installment HERE.
Be sure to read to the end to learn more about the FREE WEBINAR Razan and RB are hosting on Thursday March 1st. We’ll be discussing the blog series and opening it up to questions from the live attendees. It’s going to be fun!
“Grace and Courtesy: For Whom, Exactly?
Ensuring Your Montessori Curriculum is Culturally Inclusive”
Montessori Schools offer lessons of Grace and Courtesy in hopes that children learn how to effectively participate in the social life of their communities. When we give children tools to navigate their social environments, we equip them with the self-confidence that comes from being socially independent.
For our youngest children, these lessons often teach basic social skills. During the lessons, the guide serves as an actor and mimics what is considered to be socially acceptable behavior. However, there is a crucial consideration that we are not taught to think critically about in Montessori training: Who gets to decide what constitutes graceful and courteous behaviors?
Questions to Consider:
- Do our opinions about what is considered graceful and courteous center Eurocentric notions about manners and social graces (e.g.-does it arrogantly suggest that European/Western culture is preeminent)?
- If so, does this contribute to cultures of exclusivity in our schools?
Analyzing A Real Life Scenario
Let’s take a look at the lesson on “How to Greet Someone” as an example. Some of the Points of Interest (or movements/actions which are emphasized in our lessons to highlight their importance) for this particular lesson are:
- Making Eye Contact
- Offering your right hand
- Engaging in a firm handshake
Take a moment to think about the ways in which this lesson might center exclusively on Eurocentric/Western ideals.
If you began to explore any of the following thoughts:
“Oh! What if children in our classrooms are from cultures which consider firm handshakes and/or direct eye contact to be rude or in which it is deemed inappropriate to offer handshakes to members of the opposite sex (e.g.-Many Non-Western Cultures)?”
…then you’re on the right track!
Imagine a student returns home one day from your school informing their family of the new social etiquette they’ve been learning at school—which may include behaviors that are deemed unfavorable or rude in their home cultures.
How might this imply that we feel their cultural practices are inferior to ours or otherwise create barriers to what I’ll call “School-to-Home Harmony?”
Teachers can avoid this situation by learning to recognize their own biases when planning curriculum so they can distinguish between truly undesirable behaviors (a child consistently disrespecting the space they share with others) vs. when a child is merely expressing different cultural values (in this case, maybe not shaking hands or not making eye contact).
We have to refrain from assuming that a child is rude or somehow culturally deficient.
- Consider scheduling an Anti-Bias Education training for your faculty members or hosting a book club/discussion group. (Check out these resources from NAEYC, check out Anti-Bias Montessori and attend one of her AMS webinars, and visit http://razanabdin.com/ to work with me.)
- Create a safe space to discuss the often-uncomfortable topics of racism, xenophobia, sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, etc.
- Invite your staff to participate in some critical self-reflection regarding their own multi-layered cultural identities with the understanding that they must have a firm grounding in this territory themselves if they are to adopt culturally responsive practices.
Consider hiring facilitators with anti-bias expertise to help you facilitate these conversations and reflections.
If we want our children to become culturally competent citizens of an increasingly globalized world, we must cultivate that very culture of compassionate worldliness in our schools.
If this all seems unfamiliar and perhaps overwhelming, take a deep breath and be gentle with yourselves. We all have so much learning and unlearning to do, but the children and families that we serve undoubtedly deserve it.
Would you like to explore this topic more? Join us for a webinar on Thursday, March 1st to engage in a juicy discussion on what “inclusion” means and how we apply that meaning in our schools. Scroll to the bottom for full details!
B i o
Razan Abdin-Adnani is an Early Childhood + Equity and Diversity Consultant and Coach. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, a Master of Education with an emphasis in Montessori Studies, an AMI diploma at the Primary level and is a DONA-trained Postpartum Doula. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, dining out, live music, being outdoors, cooking, and learning more about educational equity.
W e b s i t e
S o c i a l M e d i a
H i r e
Razan offers workshops, webinars, consultations, coaching, and curriculum development services to schools, colleges and universities, families, and community organizations.
Her services are available worldwide via video chat. She is also available for travel. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the needs of your community!
Inclusive Leadership Webinar
Join RB Fast and Razan Abdin-Adnani for a free webinar all about building inclusive school culture.
- Thursday, March 1st
- 4:00 pm ET/ 2:00 pm MT
- 48 seats available for live event
- Live Q & A
Webinar will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend live.