Zanmitay Collective is excited to share our Monday Educator Feature, Razan Abdin-Adnani! We fell in love with her sharp focus, transformative perspective, and profound commitment to inclusive and antibias education. Read what she has to say below, and we think you'll love her just as much as we do!
What is your name?
Where are you from?
Originally, East Jerusalem, but I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas.
What are three things you’re passionate about?
I am passionate about literacy, building equitable, inclusive schools, and good food.
What do you teach? Why and how did you get into it?
I led classrooms of young children for a few years. I really never thought I’d be an educator—certainly not in a classroom of young children. I was an International Studies major in undergrad (after being only about six hours shy of a degree in English/Creative Writing). However, during the course of my studies and travels abroad, I decided that education was undoubtedly a tool for liberation and my interest in education as an issue of social justice was born.
When I first observed in a Montessori classroom around this same time, I was impressed and intrigued beyond measure. I didn’t realize quite how capable children are and the classrooms were utterly beautiful and peaceful. I was also deeply drawn to the holistic nature of the method and the history of its founder, Dr. Maria Montessori, who was not only one of the first female physicians in Italy, but also an avid advocate of social reform. My own experiences with formal schooling were the opposite of transformative. I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Education and Montessori Teacher Training. While I still believe in my heart that education and liberation are inextricably linked, I must admit that it didn’t take too long working in actual schools to annihilate the almost naïve idealism I had when I entered the field. I made a very conscious decision to step away from the classroom over the summer of 2017.
I have spent the last couple of months transitioning into the role of consultant/coach in earnest. I am particularly interested in helping schools implement inclusive, culturally responsive, anti-bias practices and policies for children, families, and staff members alike. My dream is to see ALL schools revolutionized into liberatory institutions that cultivate critically thinking, socially conscious, emotionally competent, democratically engaged problem solvers who embrace everyone’s whole identities (including their own). I believe that before we can ever expect to guide children on such a path, we first have to cultivate these characteristics in ourselves as the adults.
What do you hope your students and community will be transformed by in your teaching?
I just hope that people will tune in and listen, because I have unique experiences and stories to share. I am ready to reclaim my power and fulfill my own cosmic task. This is the only way I know how to be of service in any meaningful way (however small).
What inspires you?
Children, people who fight tirelessly on behalf of justice, people who tenderly care for the young and the old, people who are vulnerable and brave (especially amidst ferocious fear), people who courageously admit, without fail, when they’ve messed up and ask for forgiveness.
What advice do you have for folks looking to diversify and expand their teaching or inclusion + equity models or antibias at work?
I believe the journey has to begin with us. There is a sort of spiritual preparation of the adult, which is necessary before serving children in a really open, inclusive, and loving manner.
Get to know your own, multi-layered identities.
Acknowledge your biases (yes, we ALL have them) and work to dismantle them both within yourselves and your respective spheres of influence.
Refrain from looking at the children and families you serve through a deficit lens. Make it a priority to learn more about structural inequalities that oppressed groups face. Create policies, programs, and services that seek to address barriers to access and power.
After all, if we don’t engage in this work of critical self-reflection, of examining the ideological roots of these issues, it ultimately won’t matter what strategies or practices we try to implement in the classroom.
I am working on an upcoming blog post about Anti-Bias practices, as well as a resource list including books, videos, curriculum ideas, etc. Stay tuned to learn more!
Where can we see more of your work?