Six people eagerly approached a door last month with a bright yellow sign reading “Welcome Montessori Teachers of Color.” Their entrance marked the kickoff of a pilot program to develop and support a cohort of teachers of color.
Through this diversity initiative, Wildflower partners with promising current and future Montessori teachers from historically underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds on the journey towards creating and leading their own school. This includes supporting participants in acquiring Montessori credentials, developing their capabilities as lead guides, learning the specific work of administering a Wildflower school, and, depending on their goals and capacity, helping them plan and prepare to launch their own dream school.
The fellowship includes a paid position in an existing Wildflower school along with up to 15 hours/week of continued professional and personal development and 10 interactive workshops. The six inaugural fellows for 2017-2018 are working alongside teacher-leaders in Wildflower schools in Massachusetts: Wildflower, Dandelion, Aster and Violeta in Cambridge, and Marigold and Zinnia in Haverhill.
“This fellowship has shown me Montessori in action. The topics are introduced in a way where we all draw it out from ourselves. Thus, we are more connected to each other and the work,” said Tutu Snow, a fellow working at Wildflower school and building out her Mandarin-immersion infant-toddler program for her community. “By exploring more of what we know about equity, diversity, inclusion, and Montessori education, we understand the issue of inequity existing on a bigger scale.”
“This fellowship has shown me Montessori in action.”
In addition to the support that fellows are receiving from the teacher-leaders at their schools and the coaches throughout the 10 weekend workshops, it has been powerful to have the affinity space to nurture the experiences of people of color in a mostly white network. “I found that the program has created a safe and open space where everyone can feel comfortable,” one fellow wrote after last month’s workshop.
Research has repeatedly established that teachers of color play an instrumental role in the success of students of color. Even so, while students of color make up an increasing share of all students in the United States, teachers of color comprised less than 18% of the public school teacher workforce in 2012.
It is especially rare to find teachers of color in Montessori schools (and students of color are underrepresented, too). Over the more than 100 years that Montessori education has operated in the United States, we have no knowledge of this kind of fellowship program for recruiting and developing Montessori educators of color to be leaders of their own schools.
Perhaps some of the delay can be attributed to systemic barriers for people of color, or maybe Montessori’s word-of-mouth growth has not transcended professional and social lines of difference. Whatever the reason, we at Wildflower are determined to change this reality, and we are honored to partner with this first cadre of fellows in working towards intentionally diversifying Montessori leadership.