Zanmitay Collective got to interview radical educator Britt Hawthorne this week, and we are feeling super inspired. Read on to learn more from Britt!
Britt Hawthorne, Radical Educator and founder of the Learner's Schoolhouse
About Britt: Britt Hawthorne is Montessori Directress at the Learner’s Schoolhouse and teacher-educator at Listening and Learning. Her deepest desire is to help 1st-6th grade teachers create a culturally relevant environment using an anti-bias education framework. Her core values center around empowerment, accessibility, candor, joy, curiosity and collaboration. She is always rooting for you. You can find Britt on Instagram @listeningandlearning1 or email her at email@example.com.
Where are you from?
I live in Houston, but I hail the Midwest.
What are three things you’re passionate about/gifted at?
I’m passionately crafting a world where Black Lives Matter specifically within educational environments, developing my own positive identity and self-awareness to dismantle white supremacy and the patriarchy, and discussing equity practices over really good coffee.
What leadership role/teaching/activism do you have/do in your community? Why? How did you get into this work?
I am the founder of Learner’s Schoolhouse, an educational collective in Houston, TX for families whose race, gender, and culture are central to their identity. The learners, ages 5-11, have class in my living room using the Montessori Method and an Anti-Bias Education framework as our foundation. I became a classroom teacher to liberate learners but quickly realized all I was doing was perpetuating the systems of the status quo. While I genuinely believe in the idea of public education, I became frustrated and bitter about the effects it was having on Brown and Black learners and teachers. So, after teaching in the public school system for a handful of years, I left the classroom last year in hopes of transforming school rather than reforming school. In my broader community, I co-administrate the Montessori for Social Justice Facebook group where I learn to listen, challenge and most importantly reflect. And in my larger world, I am an anti-bias educator helping teachers and parents create a culturally relevant environment.
What do you hope your students/community will be transformed by in your work/leadership perspective?
I hope every learner will show up each day, welcome to bring his/her/their whole self and their many identities. I hope learners can reach their fullest potential and I hope for adults to do everything in their power to remove any roadblocks in the child’s way. I hope for the equitable and accessible redistribution of resources. I hope for teachers to feel empowered to start an anti-racist school. I hope my community will have healing and reconciliation for the people who have faced centuries of anti-racist/xenophobic/misogynistic policies and practices.
What inspires you to continue this work?
What is the most significant thing you've learned about yourself doing this work?
I’ve learned I have an abundance of hidden biases. The more I continue the work of dismantling white supremacy and the patriarchy the more I realize my thoughts, assumptions and perceived experiences are layered and deep. Often, I have no idea the language or policies are supremacists until unpacking and reflection have occurred.
What advice do you have for folks who want to transform their workspaces and build awareness of colonial and systemically oppressive thought patterns and practices?
Have expectations. Decided on your core values, what do you believe you need in this work and then find folks with the same expectations or hire folks with the same expectations. For me, empowerment + accessibility are two of my core values; I seek to work with folks looking to empower others and share in the accessibility of resources. If you're not careful, you will end up subscribing to a whitewash/sanitized version, which will do more harm than good.
Develop your identity every day. Whether it’s a daily article, podcast, coffee-chat or self-reflection, knowing who you are and your social identities will begin to unlock your liberation.
Practice courage. Start small, whether it’s calling out a racist coworkers statement or wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt while teaching, practice dismantling white supremacy often.
Support people already doing the work before starting something new. Individualism is inherently supremacist. Instead, look to work in collaboration with others. Ask how you can show up and work for People of Color. Listen to People of Color when they ask for cash donations, trust the work they are doing, share their work before yours (if you are white), always look for ways to amplify their work and voice even if that means passing on an opportunity.
Press for an anti-bias/anti-racist (ABAR) training in your workspace. Ongoing ABAR is essential for all parties involved: learners, parents, teachers, support staff, administrators, and community members. If your workspace is resistant, find out why and work towards the solution to make it happen.
Where can we see more of your work?
I like to keep things egalitarian and welcoming for individuals. I love microblogging and connecting on Instagram, @listeningandlearning1. Folks who find value in my work and are able to pay may do so at www.patreon.com/listeningandlearning.