Saturday, September 5, 2015

Family Tree

No, I haven't died.

Yes, life has been busy.

Also, I started a book blog this summer, so my writing time/energy/mojo has all been going to that.

But then something happened that I wanted to write about, and it's more adoption related than book related, so here I am.

I went back to school this week--well, last week, counting setting up your classroom and going to boring meetings inservice week.  My kids go to school in a different district, so they don't start until next Tuesday.  A few days ago, we did their meet-your-teacher-and-drop-off-supplies events.  Oak is still in the behavior classroom at a different school, and his teacher is totally cool with his various issues.  Oak is also reassured to be returning to a familiar teacher and classroom.  All change is seen as potentially lethal, so the last week before school starts (and the first week or two of school) tend to be, um, challenging for all of us.  This year we're at -3 days in the countdown, and he's still doing okay, so yay for Mr. Nelson and the EBD classroom.

Linden is still at our neighborhood school, where everyone knows all four of us pretty darn well at this point.  I love the principal, and just hope she stays there until Linden moves on in a few years.  The decision to move Oak to a different program came with a lot of tears on her staff's part; they were willing to work with him, but realized they were not able to give him enough academic supports to make the constant disruptions worthwhile for anyone.  So I know this school has my family's back.  Therefore, I was a little taken aback to be handed the 3rd grade's first assignment packet.

  1. Make a family tree.
  2. Interview a grandparent about your ancestors
  3. Research and present on your ancestors' culture, including dress, food, religion, etc.

I know enough now to know that it is not just my kid who will be thrown by this.  What about single parent families?  Families with toxic grandparents?  What about African Americans who have no way of knowing their country of origin?  The thing is, I'm sure the teacher will allow kids to adapt the assignments if they need to, but why isn't the assignment already differentiated, so everyone can choose to learn the skills in a way that's approachable, instead of having to feel singled out and awkward by asking for permission to adapt it?  

So I'm gathering my resources and crafting my letter to the teacher.  As a teacher myself, I sure don't want to start our yearlong partnership off by pissing her off, which I could do by sounding judgmental (like it the paragraph above) or like I'm telling her her job.  But I want to not just advocate for my kid, but encourage the teacher (or the 3rd grade staff at our building) to think about how else they can present this unit so ALL kids can get involved without parents having to do all this pre-work.  

Again, as a teacher, I know nobody is ill-intentioned.  I run a lot of what I say and do in the classroom through the filter of "how would this sound to my kids?", and it's embarrassing how often the filter actually makes me change how I present something.  Like all forms of privilege, coming from a two parent family means that becomes your default image for how the world is.  I should know better, and I still slip up, so I understand how another privileged person can be oblivious.  Still, the responsibility always remains to educate yourself and to recognize your bias.  I guess this is my chance to help my daughter's teacher grow!

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