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Professional Development With Britt Hawthorne

Professional Development With Britt Hawthorne

The Washington Market School hosted Britt Hawthorne for a day of learning and conversation. Britt, who has been working with the WMS faculty and staff since the fall of 2022, is an anti-bias antiracist (ABAR) educator and New York Times Bestselling author. The focus of our multi-year collaboration with Britt is centered around her 4-part ABAR framework:

  1. Self Love

  2. Embrace People 

  3. Identify Unfairness

  4. Act Justly

Britt recently joined our parent community for an in-person fireside chat "Talking to Kids About Tricky Topics." During the discussion, Britt shared practical strategies for raising a generation of anti-bias, anti-racist children. In yesterday’s professional development session with Britt, we dove deeper into the 4-part framework by exploring the significance of identity in early childhood education. We began our discussion by exploring the significance of our names, and how that one piece of our identity can hold so much weight for each of us as individuals. Calling someone by their correct name (and pronouncing their name accurately) is affirming (self-love). Helping others when we hear them mispronounce a name of someone we know is a way for us to act justly. 

Our conversation shifted to a focus on gender and gender identity, specifically for children ages 2-5.We learned that by age two, children can verbally or non verbally express their own gender identity and the gender identity of others. For example, a two-year-old might begin to label “I am a boy,” or “she is a girl.” As children develop, their understanding of gender develops. By age four, children will begin to construct a personal belief system of gender identity. Examples of this often come to light when children are role playing, “I am the dad because I am a boy,” or” you can’t be the mom, you are a boy.” The research guides us to understand that gender is a complex integration of biology, development, socialization, culture and context. Understanding these concepts as educators is vital, as we believe children already know who they are and it is our work to affirm them. 

After lunch, we launched into some interactive learning and work around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Britt helped us to better understand that diversity, equity and inclusion are distinctly different from one another. 

  • Diversity is the representation of difference that is both present and not present in an environment. The materials in our classrooms (our books, dolls, pretend food, etc.) represent some ways we can value diversity. 

  • Equity is the structures and systems that are in place that allow for fairness and accessibility. Having a system in place that ensures  that each young learner is observed by each teacher is an example of equity within our classrooms. 

  • Inclusion takes place when everyone who is already part of a community is invited  to be co-creators in their space. In an early childhood classroom, finding ways for different foods, sounds, smells, and dress are some ways to create an inclusive environment. 

Britt helped us to understand that diversity, equity and inclusion are not always tied together in practice. For example, a learning environment can be diverse without practices and systems around equity and without members of the community being or feeling invited to co-create their space. With heightened clarity, we worked in groups to identify and share the ways in which diversity, equity and inclusion are currently part of our practice as well as ways we will continue to incorporate each at a classroom level as well as an organization. We believe that every teacher and administrator holds the shared responsibility of preparing a learning environment that enables our learners to feel seen, heard, included and safe.

As educators, we recognize the profound impact our ABAR practices have on our young learners and their ongoing engagement with the world. We are so grateful for the opportunity to share our invaluable DEI and ABAR learning with the entire Washington Market School community, and will continue to do so as we learn and grow together.