Professional Development Resources for Staff

Montessori Pedagogy In the Classroom


ABAR with Britt Hawthorne (Resources)


From Carolyn McDonald, Sunstone Student Support Specialist


The Reason I Jump: the Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

This week’s resource is The Reason I Jump, a book written by a 13 year old Japanese male named Naoki Higashida, who is non-verbal and Autistic.  The book demonstrates how an Autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us could ever imagine. I have a copy of it if anyone wants to borrow it. He has since written another book titled Fall Down 7 Times Get up 8.

I watched the documentary last night and it is powerful.  Interspersed between Naoki’s words are stories from around the world of people with Autism. The severity of their Autism is far greater than what we would encounter here at school, though it still gives a good look into the life and emotions of an Autistic Individual and how communication is a struggle for them. It also really opens a window into the intense and often overwhelming yet sometimes joyful sensory universe they live in.  I like how it really depicts how the power of understanding, connection and art can be transformative for these individuals.  In addition to the stories I really loved the visual imagery of details of an object before spanning out to the bigger picture or object itself, demonstrating how easy it is to get focused on the details of things.  I watched it on Amazon Prime.  I’m not sure where else it is currently streaming but I highly recommend watching it.

Being the Change

This week I highly recommend reading Being the Change; Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension written by Sara K Ahmed. It is a relatively quick and engaging read. Classroom teams might even want to consider reading it together at some point though I know time is a precious commodity for us all.

The book has a lot of practical ideas, some of which Britt Hawthorne shared with us, including identity webs, journaling family histories and partner interviews. Her ideas are adaptable to a wide age range and she really encourages us to do the work ourselves before presenting it in the classroom. Her thoughts on how listening with love and teaching active listening skills build real communities which strengthen real learning really resonated with me personally.

I have a copy of it in my office, feel free to come by and take a look or borrow it.

ABAR: Art Activist, Faith Ringgold

American Artist Faith Ringgold. Faith (born Faith Willis Jones; October 8, 1930) is an American Painter, painting on different materials including fabric, a published author, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, and intersectional activist. Perhaps best known for her narrative quilts, she also wrote a number of books for children and young readers including: Tar Beach, Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad, Dinner at Aunt Connie’s House, We Flew over the Bridge, Bonjour Lonnie, My Dream of Martin Luther King, The Invisible Princess, If a Bus Could Talk, and Cassie’s Word Quilt, to name a few.

Video Resource:

There are a number of videos online detailing her life, work and influences. I highly recommend Quilt Artist Faith Ringgold. A threads episode on Craft in America.

She is an inspiring artist, teacher, and activist who is well known in the Art World. I really love the idea of combining her narrative quilts with the Affirming Our Identities activity in the Being The Change book I shared last week. It could be something as simple as Children’s House reading some of her books and drawing pictures based off of her stories to Elementary delving deeper into her stories and painting or sewing their own quilts detailing their own identity stories.

There are a variety of options that could be done. If you are interested in some activity templates or books or other more detailed resources to implement this in your classroom let me know as I am happy to offer support or provide a lesson to a class.

How to Motivate someone with ASD

How to build or cultivate the Desire to do something:

-For motivation to exist, Choice must exist as well. Giving them a choice is key!

-Choices can be presented in three formats; Open-ended, multiple choice and hard-line.

-Desire and motivation for a task can be stoked by making a clear, emotional connection between what they have to do and what they want to do. (in other words, having a result that is important to them)

-New connections can be made through education in a “deep explanation” conversation. A deep explanation conversation is when you deep dive into the importance of completing a task or activity.

-When initiating a “deep explanation” conversation, consider the other’s perspective before trying to make your own point of view known. Make sure you are aware of how they feel about the topic so as not to upset or further their resistance.

-Avoid the curse of knowledge and don’t skip over any steps when making the connection, however obvious they may seem to you. The connection must be solid and complete for it to work.

-Always ask permission before initiating a difficult conversation. ‘Is now a good time to talk about this?” If not ,then agree upon a time.

-Listen, ask questions, and validate the other person’s perspective before trying to make your own point of view known.

-In the end, one’s innate autonomy is always intact. They can choose to say no, accepting and fully understanding the consequences.

Braiding Sweetgrass

This week’s resource is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer. This book is one of my all time favorites. I know a lot of you have heard of and or read it, but in case you haven’t already you should definitely check it out. I bought the hard copy after listening to it on audible just because I wanted a copy of it to hold and look through. Listening to Robin’s stories can be very soothing and meditative during this chaotic time. I listen to them over and over again. It helps me remember that even though we can feel isolated and overwhelmed by the world, we are not alone.

There is a young adult version as well which older children could read to help give them hope and inspire acts of activism. Be it taking small steps towards climate change or finding ways to mend our relationship with Indigenous People. It can be used to inspire research or gardening projects.

While doing some research of my own I came across an article on the American Association for the Advancement of Science page that talks about a recent global groundswell of Indigenous-led research on stewardship of lands and waters, providing opportunities for Indigenous and Western knowledge to flourish together. One of the steps created towards accomplishing this goal is the establishment of the Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science (CBIKS) which is led by 54 predominantly Indigenous scholars and based at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The various teams which span the globe will address climate disruption, food insecurity, and cultural survival through learning from indigenous community based approaches. I don’t know about you, but it’s learning things like this that make me feel better about our world.