Seasonal Reflection

How often do we unwittingly or unknowingly cause harm to the students and families in our communities, and how can we do better? This post is by no means an answer to the problem and, at the same time, it is a call to do better. 

In this season of Halloween, on the eve of Native American Heritage Month, with Thanksgiving and its associated stereotypes, mistruths, and half-truths right around the corner, let’s make a commitment as a community to keep learning and stop harming.

Halloween is an opportunity to introduce even the youngest children to the awareness that it is hurtful to use another person’s culture as a costume. There are many helpful resources on this available with an internet search for “I am not a Costume” or “My Culture is not a Costume.” 

Native American Heritage Month (and every month) is an opportunity to celebrate the rich culture, recognize the injustices endured, and honor the resilience and vitality of Indigenous peoples. Those who are not Indigenous can stop the harm that is so often done by either trying to tell someone else’s story or assuming an Indigenous community member will take on this role and, rather, looking to educational materials created by Indigenous organizations and individuals.

Here is a story (from a different season) by Paul Gorski of the Equity Literacy Institute. Taco Night is one boy’s remembrance of lessons learned, and not learned, through an apparently “harmless” and well-intended school event. 

A Montessori school can be a rich celebration of cultures and a Montessori classroom is rich with stories and storytelling. This season, and always, as we embark on a celebration or story, let’s remember to ask ourselves, and teach our students to ask themselves: Whose voices are not heard? Whose stories are silenced? Who benefits? Who is marginalized? How is this happening? Why is this happening?*

* With appreciation to Maati Waaford, AMS Director of Anti-Bias, Antiracist Education, and Jasmine Williams, NCMPS Race and Equity Specialist, for contributing frameworks for inquiry

Sara Suchman, Executive Director