Q & A with Britt Hawthorne




Hi friends! It's been a while since I've shared an interview, but I am so glad to be back and even more glad that I'm sharing this particular interview with Britt Hawthorne of @britthawthorne. Britt is an Elementary Montessori Guide who is passionate about cultivating anti-bias and anti-racist classrooms and shares tons of resources on her instagram and Patreon account. She is incredibly thoughtful and inspiring and I feel lucky to follow and learn from her on instagram. Check out our interview and send Britt some love on her pages!

Q: Who is Britt? What are some things people might not know about you from following your instagram?

A: I’m a Black-cisgender-woman, practicing Christian and a mother, wife, sister, daughter and teacher. I love coffee (but you probably already know that) I am deeply introverted (which is why I love Instagram), and I grew up upper-middle class but am now settled in working-class. Something you might not know: I have always dreamed of traveling outside the country. I live in Houston, but my heart is in the Midwest where the rest of my family lives. One of my core values is empowerment. I would like to amplify these incredible Instagram accounts Tiffany Jewell @antibiasmontessori; Liz Kleinrock @teachandtransform; Maribel Valdez Gonzalez @xijadelatierra

Q: What inspired you to start your instagram account?

A: My Instagram account was first created as a classroom newsletter for parents wanting to stay connected to our school day. After leaving the classroom last year, I transitioned it into a business account with the intention of self-promotion… only for that to fail miserably. I have now found my flow sharing what I have learned about white supremacy, the patriarchy and my missteps of upholding both of these.

Q: What are the things you're most passionate about as an educator?

A: I am so passionate about creating a classroom environment where Black Lives Matter and working in partnership with teachers to find their identities.

Q: What does it mean to be an anti-bias educator? What does this look like in practice?

A: An anti-bias educator actively works to remove oppressive”-ims” in the classroom environment by following the anti-bias framework. We work to develop our own positive self identity around race, gender, culture, and socioeconomic class. We work to craft accurate language, always putting the child first and in a positive light while always describing the systems and/or institution as the deficit ones. We promote advocacy in our own community and support learners to work toward a just world.  

Q: What do you love about Montessori? What would you change?

A: Oh gosh, I love everything about the Montessori Method. The things that stand out are children are equally valued in our environments, their voices often looked to before ours, the empowerment to become fully independent beings, the decentering of the adult, the emphasis of beauty, order and structure, the one hundred year old didactic materials used to teach extremely abstract concepts concretely, the multiage classrooms forcing learners to practice leading and following and the promise and promotion of peace education.

I would change the practical application of Montessori. Montessori in the United States has catered to white, upper-class families for far too long. When public and charter Montessori programs are created in specifically Brown and Black communities, white families seem to quickly take over. I would increase the access to Montessori and update teacher-created materials to include culturally relevant materials.

Q: What's one thing you would change about our education system?

A: That’s tough. I honestly can’t pick one thing because I would rather focus on a new system being created than trying to reform the current system.

Q: What's one piece of advice you would give to a new teacher?

A: I suggest new teachers give themselves lots of grace. Don’t be embarrassed or insecure about your lack of teaching years; you bring energy, spark, creativity and current research. Make a to-do list focusing on years. For instance, I didn’t teach spelling my first year (I know big fail), but I promised I would get a system in place and adopt a spelling program year 2; year 3, I would revamp my classroom library intentionally looking at each book from an anti-bias lens and so on.

Q: What was (one of) your most challenging experience(s) in the classroom? What did you learn?

A: Grading was a big challenge for me. As a Montessorian we believe grading does not contribute to the learning process or aid in fulfilling the child’s need to reach his or her fullest potential. So finding a grading system that accurately communicates a child’s academic ability without limiting  his or her potential caused me to reform the process every year. But on a deeper level, the weekly reports and final grades was a constant reminder of white supremacy taking root. It was just another reminder of my participation in white supremacy. It looked the same every year, every grade, white boys did the best with white girls trailing behind and a huge dip with everyone else. Layer that with under-resourced families and a second language and the grades were gloomier and the parent-teacher conferences were redundant.

Q: What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself while taking care of others?

A: I use to (and sometimes still do) define self-care as bubble baths, doing Baptiste yoga and sipping coffee outside but now I’ve borrowed my definition of self-care from Joseph Oteng. “Self-care is addressing your own problematic thoughts and behaviors, removing toxic (not just challenging) people and situations from your life; holding yourself accountable for what you do and say (and apologizing authentically); doing your own self-work to be emotionally literate,” and learning to say genuinely say yes or no.

Q: What's one thing you would change about our education system?

A: Gosh, one thing? I would end the privatization of schools. Read more why here.