Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dear Teacher

On one hand I can understand how innocent you think your project is.  Just send home a paper about ancestry and ask kids to have their parents fill in the ancestry for mom, dad, and both sets of grandparents.  They return with it, you have a great class discussion, everyone learns something.

I have one problem with that. The traditional mom-dad-kiddo family is not so traditional any more...

What about students in those non-traditional families? Those in foster care? Single parent households? Adopted? Kinship care? Protective custody?

What about them? They may not know. They may not ever know.

Did you think about the families who had to deal with parents who’s rights were revoked? Families who were abandoned? Children in foster care who will never know anything about their birth families?

Imagine my shock when my son produced a family tree paper asking for his family ancestry. Imagine my shock when he asked me if he had a father and why he couldn’t remember him.

Let me share something with you, you can’t spring something like this on families and assume all will be well.  My honest response was not pretty. Truthful. But not pretty.

It shouldn’t matter. Honestly, I didn’t want to really discuss it because it shouldn’t matter. He technically does not exist. But thanks to you... He now does.

My son isn’t alone in how much he struggles.  Many children, disabled or not, struggle mightily.  Can you imagine how the child without one or both of their parents feels when they bring this paper home and can’t fill it out?

That is the case with us. Technically, his father does not exist. He is not a conversation that happens.

You see, a number of years ago the court decided that he was, in fact, a rather crappy and immature human being and revoked his parental rights. They saw him as unfit if you will.

You read that right, the court revoked his parental rights to his child. Not that he ever wanted anything to do with the kiddo...

Let that sink in.

I’m sure you’ll feel mortified when you read my note and find out that his father’s rights were revoked and that until now, he didn’t even know he should have one. He is not a topic of discussion.

The kicker? I guess they really don't share custody information despite saying they do and requiring me to prove it to the school with a copy of the order... Well, so much for that.

I’m really surprised that you would make such a basic assumption about families in this day and age.  At least warn the families that such a project is coming home. Let the family prepare for how to answer those questions or to opt out.  It’s really not something you can spring on someone like that.  I know I’m really bad at making things up on the spot...

It has really opened some wounds for me in many ways... The kiddo is struggling enough and now he knows his own father couldn't be bothered with him. He doesn't know why but I do. I won’t write it here because it’s reasoning that needs to come directly from me to my son, but I will comfortably say that he needs to burn in hell for what he said to me and the language he used...

These kinds of questions, especially without any preparation, can (and have) become a serious issue in a household like mine.  It’s not a subject that can be taken lightly or easily.

I went to Facebook with this because I was so upset.  My concerns and upset were shared by many from different backgrounds. I have adopted friends who especially felt the pain of it having done these types of assignments in the past but were left invalidated by it.  

Every family is different.  Family dynamics are different than they used to be.  Teachers need to be sensitive to these ever changing dynamics.  Teachers need to respect and be sensitive to how families operate today.  We long longer have the dad-mom-kiddo norm.  It is simply no longer the norm.

Please, be more sensitive to the culture that exists today. Adjust your thinking and ideals to match the students you serve in your classroom.  You owe them that much.

I leave you with this AMAZING video that was shared with me.

I know I couldn’t stop crying.


  1. You are so right. Parents need to be given a heads up about a project like this. There are so many ways to do this in a more sensitive manner. Kids could interview a relative about his or her job or interests. They could research information about a country that one of their ancestors came from. They could write about what makes a favorite aunt or uncle special or fun. They could make a coat of arms with visuals representing the families interests or values. Or they could do a family tree. The point is to allow for choice and let parents know ahead of time so there can be a plan in place. I hope the teacher and the school learn from this.

    And hugs to you, Mom. You are doing a great job being both parents to your kid. <3

    1. Thank you. I like to think so. :)

      I love the coat of arms idea. I actually use it when introducing myself to students. I show them one I made and have them make one too. It's a fun activity where they get to learn about me and I get to learn about them. There are so many viable options out there.

      I spoke to my son's AS teacher who agreed with me that teachers need to be more aware that what used to be the norm is no longer the norm. She made the comment that the dynamics are much different now. They really are...

      Thank you for your comment!