Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging at WMS
Our commitment to diversity
Awareness of and respect for individual differences are embedded in our Montessori philosophy and curriculum. WMS seeks to acknowledge the uniqueness of each person’s experience and background within the broad spectrum of humanity. We do this by creating a culture of appreciation and mutual respect, acceptance and a commitment to human rights and to free and open inquiry. Our commitment to diversity extends throughout the school community, including students, families, employees, Family Alliance and the Board of Trustees. It is not enough to limit this commitment to curriculum and teaching methods; it must be evident in our culture and in how we conduct all business and social affairs of the school. The admissions, business, communications and development staff intentionally consider the diversity in our community when making plans and decisions.
Please see our Statement of Nondiscrimination on the About page.
From the Head of School
Head of School Sunita Pailoor shares a letter written to the WMS community on April 5, 2022 on the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB):
Dear WMS Community,
I finally feel cautiously optimistic about the rest of the school year. While we are keeping a careful eye on the spread of the Omicron variant BA.2, I feel that I can now focus on something other than the pandemic and the staffing issues that have dominated the school year until now.
Recently, there have been many questions and concerns about the work we do at the school regarding Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB). While the words and the acronym are more recent, the work that we do to make each student feel seen, heard, and valued has been ongoing at WMS for the last 39 years. What we have done over the years is adapt to changes in thinking, changes in societal norms, and changes in the student body. All of our decisions are based on what is best for students.
Montessori education is peace education, and our most fundamental value is respect for self, others, and the environment. WMS, along with our national accrediting body the American Montessori Society (AMS), realize that the scope of peace education is changing along with the changes in society. Respect for self includes all aspects of identity: race, religion, culture, gender, family structure, and all the other aspects of what makes a person unique. Respect for others includes respecting others' identities, peaceful communication, and listening to others’ perspectives. Respect for the environment also includes creating an intentional culture within our school to ensure that students feel safe to be who they are in our classrooms. We began professional development in various aspects of diversity over the last 20 years.
- Cultural Diversity is the celebration of all the different cultures in our school community. This is a key aspect of Montessori education. Families are invited to celebrate their cultural holidays with the school. The foundational lesson on the fundamental needs of humans in Elementary is the lens through which many aspects of culture are studied. In 2006, we began celebrating Festivals of Light at the school so that we could learn about all the winter holidays from around the world, including how Christmas is celebrated in many other countries. In 2014, the Family Alliance began celebrating many cultural holidays with all-school Lunar New Year and Ramadan events, and inviting families to share with classrooms how they celebrate holidays such as Hanukah, Nowruz, Diwali, and more.
- Neurodiversity is the idea that all students’ brains work differently, and that the uniqueness of the individual’s learning profile adds to the richness of the classroom community. We are doing ongoing work in this area as new strategies are developed and more brain research is available that we can share with students so that they can advocate for themselves. In the 2007-2008 school year, we completed the All Kinds of Mind Training. Over the course of five full days, our faculty learned that each student’s unique learning profile consists of strengths, weaknesses, and affinities and that students can learn to leverage their strengths and affinities to overcome their weaknesses. In the 2012-2013 school year, faculty took the Montessori Applied to Children At Risk (MACAR) training. This is a skill-based training to help students with some learning differences and was offered to faculty who were interested. In 2014, a speaker from the Hallowell-Todaro Center did a workshop for all faculty about how to work with students who have executive functioning challenges. We now plan to do at least an hour of professional development yearly on neurodiversity in classrooms.
- Economic Diversity – Historically, WMS kept its tuition low so that it was affordable to more families. When it became clear that it was not possible to continue that model and pay staff what they deserve, WMS committed to funding Tuition Assistance for students in need. It was a strategic goal in our very first strategic plan. Now we dedicate 10% of gross tuition income to families in need.
- Gender & Sexuality Diversity – We began this journey to support a community member making a transition. Shortly after, some students demanded that we educate ourselves on this topic so that we could meet their needs, or their friends’ needs, and create a classroom environment where they felt included and respected. We realized that we needed more education to better support our students and community. In 2017, we sent students to participate in a student diversity workshop hosted by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS, one of our accrediting bodies). In 2019, psychologist and speaker Jennifer Bryan did a two-day workshop on Gender and Sexuality Diversity. She was scheduled to do a family education piece in April of 2020, but we had to cancel because of the pandemic. Our work on identity is intended to give voice to students to express themselves in a safe classroom environment.
- Race & Social Justice – Montessori education with its emphasis on social responsibility has been at the forefront of educating students about social justice issues. For many years now, students in high school have researched the impact of superfund sites on marginalized communities, and other topics like race and the prison system, etc. However, post-George Floyd’s death and with the Black Lives Matter movement, AMS invited all member schools to better educate themselves on issues like discrimination and systemic racism. They offered Anti-Bias and Anti-Racism education training for faculty, and some of our faculty have completed the training. We are in the process of examining all the existing systems at our school to ensure that we are not unintentionally or unconsciously discriminating against communities.
From the American Montessori Society
Montessori: valuing diversity with andrew soloman (AMS)
“Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”—John Muir
WMS educates students to be global citizens who embrace different cultures and who understand the value of diversity in thought, experience and being. Through education that highlights the interdependencies and ties between humanity and environment, student activism is kindled as their understanding of social justice and personal identity strengthens. Respect for self, others and the environment is at the heart of all that we do.
On this page we are collecting resources—books, videos, articles—to aid all of us in gaining understanding. This list will grow. We hope you will check back now and then to see what is new.
- Resources for Talking about Race, Racism and Racialized Violence with Kids by Center for Racial Justice in Education
- Your Kids Aren't Too Young to Talk about Race: Resource Roundup by Pretty Good
- Teaching Tolerance website for educators
- Antiracism Resources
- Scaffolding Anti-Racism Resources
- Talking to Children after Racial Incidents from the Penn GSE Newsroom
- Supporting Kids Of Color in the Wake Of Racialized Violence from EmbraceRace
- Talking About Racism And Bias: Resources for Parents And Caregivers from Children's Alliance
- Talking to Kids about Racial Violence by Haig Chahinian
- Talking to Kids About Racism
- Brené with Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist
- Raising Anti-Racist White Children Workshop, the next session starting in June is full but you can click on a box to sign up to get info about the session starting in September.
- The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege. Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing (The Social Justice Handbook Series) by Anneliese A. Singh and Tim Wise
- Black Lives Matter at School
- Anti Bias Resources from National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- Resource Guide for White Teachers and Parents Developing Consciousness and Moving into Action
- National Museum of African American History and Culture Releases “Talking About Race” Web Portal, to Explore Issues Of Race, Racism And Racial Identity
Talking with children about difficult subjects
Our community can be an agent of change
June 1, 2020
Dear WMS Community,
Today, I write with a heavy heart. I read newspaper after newspaper, and cry while reading the account of the death of George Floyd, I cry while I read the first-person accounts of African American people who experience fear and racism every day. I cry reading a poignant letter that another Head of School wrote to her community about talking to her 10-year-old African American son. I agree with my colleague, being silent is no longer an option. Racism exists in our society and we all have a part to play in being the solution. We need to have conversations with each other and with our children about racism.
While I feel overwhelmed and helpless in confronting racism that is so deeply entrenched in society, I became an educator because I believe in our students and in their ability to change the world. As Maria Montessori said, “the child is both a hope and promise for mankind.” Through education, conversation and courage we can make a difference in the world. We, as individuals and as a community can be agents of change. Here are some resources, shared with me by other heads of schools, to start conversations with your children, our students.
What gives me hope is that our community shares common values. We all believe in Montessori education which has at its core peace education. Issues of social justice, equity and inclusion need to be our focus along with keeping everyone safe through this pandemic.
Take care everyone, please reach out to your students’ teachers if you have any questions. While I may not have answers, I can listen.